Sustainability is a complex matter. And the more we learn about it the more complex it seems to become.
Not many years ago, the environmental impact of furniture products was measured by the volume of its recycled content, its recyclability, and perhaps its impact to indoor environmental quality. Today that is not enough. It is not just about the composition of the materials we select, it is also about the processes required to transform those materials, where they come from, where they will end up and what will happen to them when they get there. It is about the impacts to human and environmental health, aquatic toxicity, resource depletion and climate change. It is a lot to keep on top of.
Over the past few years literally hundreds of new “eco labels” have emerged globally. While it isn’t possible to maintain a comprehensive knowledge of the detail behind every one, universal concerns have emerged that we endeavor to address and reflect in our products.
Each new product development initiative includes a “sustainability brief” that identifies goals, targets, and measures of success and assigns accountability. A “Design for Environment” framework is utilized to ensure that in the earliest stages of design we are considering and addressing:
- Material composition, source and supply
- Process energy
- End-of-life (recycling / disposal)
While this life-cycle thinking begins in the design phase, it also includes, with equal weight, Marketing, Supply Chain, Operations, Logistics and Finance. For technical expertise we rely on internal lifecycle analysts as well as on ongoing relationships with institutions such as Stanford University and Technical University of Denmark.
As we incorporate this approach, we apply the learning from one project to inform and benefit the next, not to eliminate complexity, but to design products that recognize and respect it.