Oct 19 2020

The green furniture industry. How much sustainability is still possible?

Good news and bad news at the beginning. The good news is that the furniture industry is greener and better positioned than many other industries in terms of sustainability in its processes. The bad news is that it is not enough. A rethink and further development is therefore required. We take a look at realistic paths, existing concepts and new options. 

Creating ennobility for our planet 

Environmental awareness has moved from individual lifestyle to social movement and economic necessity. Protecting our environment is a common task for all generations and an obligation for every area of public life. This also applies to companies, especially the furniture industry.  

This sector has numerous opportunities to improve its climate balance. At present, most of these are still voluntary, but many will soon be mandatory. Implementation is therefore not only a sustainable approach, but also important for economic competitiveness. In any case, the aim should be to anchor climate protection permanently in the company. Effectiveness, transparency and credibility play a decisive role in this.  

The path to a long-term climate protection strategy contains various building blocks that can be designed and built up to suit the company. Examples of these are: 

  • Creation of the company's CO2 balance sheet (CCF - Corporate Carbon Footprint) 
  • Calculation of the CO2 emissions of products (PCF - Product Carbon Footprint) 
  • Development of a corporate climate protection strategy to reduce CO2 emissions (CO2 reduction) 
  • Establishment of a climate-neutral company and products (CO2 compensation) 
  • Development of a climate-neutral supply chain solution for the company 
  • Establishment of a climate communication strategy for the company. 

About "planting trees" and sustainable quality labels in the furniture industry  

The sustainability goal of a company should be climate neutrality. Despite all avoidance and reduction, however, a certain amount of CO2 emissions will remain. In order to offset these, companies can support recognised climate protection projects with different standards. For regional projects, afforestation campaigns are particularly suitable as natural climate protection.  

Another important approach is the preparation of sustainability reports by the company - not only from an economic perspective. At present, this is only mandatory for listed companies or those with more than 500 employees.  

With reference to the coming Supply Chain Act, however, this may change soon and should be seen as an opportunity for small and medium-sized companies through voluntary preparation. The advantages are obvious: Voluntariness creates customer confidence, transparency shows weaknesses in operational processes and potential for improvement in current sustainability activities. 

A good example can be found in the Sustainability Report 2017 of Wimmer Wohnkollektionen GmbH under the point Ecology - Identifying and eliminating weak points: "In this context, the plastic packaging of our furniture pieces was the first thing that caught our attention as a weak point. 

In addition to the sustainability report, companies have various options for having sustainable actions recognised. Many furniture manufacturers and retailers are already well positioned in this area and are greener than many other industries: 

  • Certification of environmental management systems by EMAS and ISO 
  • Emission label of the German Furniture Quality Association (DGM) 
  • Climate pact according to the DGM guidelines for climate protection 
  • The Golden "M" - test and quality seal of the DGM and RAL 
  • PEFC - the world's largest certification system for sustainable forest management 
  • Made in Germany - Quality from Germany and production at the location 
  • Blue Angel - Eco-label of the Federal Government and RAL

 Since 1970, we have been consuming more biocapacity worldwide than ecosystems can sustainably provide. © Canva

Using natural resources more efficiently - ProgRess III is coming 

On 17 June 2020 the Federal Cabinet adopted the third German Resource Efficiency Programme (ProgRess III) with the objective of using raw materials sparingly. Companies in particular are to use natural resources more efficiently along the entire value chain. 

Progress III focuses on exploiting the opportunities offered by digital technologies for greater prosperity and competitiveness, social justice and an intact environment, and on providing appropriate information and education. The range of topics covered by the 119 measures includes ecological due diligence in raw material supply chains, advisory services for companies and the reparability of products for re-use. 

With a side view of the megatrend neo-ecology, ProgRess III offers a good option for the modern implementation of the Sharing Economy. "Use instead of owning", the principle has become a new value creation model - especially where limited resources are involved. This is also where the furniture industry again has opportunities for new customer offers. 

What hygge, cocooning and furniture for rent have in common - a (possible) trend analysis soon here.

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