If you have an interest in, or indeed, actively campaign on the issue of eco friendliness, then you might have a less than positive attitude toward business and its impact on the environment, but more and more businesses are embracing the concept of sustainability and have made great strides in promoting it and implementing its concepts within their own operations.
Influential business people who have embraced the idea of sustainability include Michael Dell, founder and CEO of Dell Inc., one of the leading names in PC manufacturing. The computer manufacturing industry has struggled in the past to safely dispose of its products or to recycle them. Dell has been a pioneer in its sustainability efforts, allowing customers to return any products with the Dell name on them to it free, for the purposes of recycling. Dell has even gone so far as to accept products from other manufacturers.
In the area of airline travel, Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Atlantic, has been at the fore in efforts to identify and develop alternative fuel supplies. The airline is working to reduce carbon emissions from its aircraft. It also has an active recycling and waste reduction program, ridding itself of polystyrene food containers and plastic cups and recycling old office furniture for use by local charities. Branson emphasizes sustainability across his Virgin business empire and the Virgin Stars of the Year awards recognizes employees who make great efforts to promote environmentally responsible policies.
Sustainability is a big issue for the resources sector, of course, and the Indonesian entrepreneur Sukanto Tanoto, founder and chairman of the RGE group of resource-based businesses, is well aware of this. Tanoto has built his enterprise from a maker of plywood in Indonesia into a global giant, with operations in China and Brazil and sales worldwide, but he knows that his business can only grow if it acts responsibly and ethically. All of his companies have as an aim the use of efficient production systems and there is an emphasis both on energy savings and on operating in a way that aligns with environment concerns.
For some companies, investing in sustainability makes sense from a business perspective. Embracing the notion of resource sustainability helps reinforce a positive message among consumers that the company takes its environmental responsibilities seriously, but it also helps ensure that the company survives into the future. Automakers, for example, recognize the importance of developing alternative fuel sources to power their cars. Otherwise, the future of the motor vehicle, as oil supplies run out, looks rather bleak.
Sustainability is seen as important from a business perspective, in part because these businesses want to grow into the future. In a similar fashion, we, as ordinary citizens, want to secure our own future and that of future generations. In the presence of the continued and rapid depletion of resources, that future looks less bright, so the challenge for us all is to embrace sustainability and to fight our own personal battles against waste.
Awareness of sustainable purchasing and the environment has grown considerably in recent years, not least in the furnishing industry. Here, the key issue is timber, as furniture is obviously heavily reliant on wood, which continues to be the obvious material for furniture: it is resilient, versatile, easy to maintain and provides a warm, natural feel to any home.
The perils of unsustainable logging
Of course, we’d all like to furnish our homes with wood. It is so much warmer and more natural looking than the alternatives. Trees grow back, so on the face of it they would seem much greener and sustainable than synthetic countertypes. Yet the global desire for wood is great and relentless, and timber demand is higher in some areas than there are trees. Unsustainable logging leads to widespread deforestation, leaving huge swathes of land that will never return to their green woodland glory.
It is therefore very important that when purchasing wood, you always make sure to buy sustainable.
FSC certified timber is sustainable timber
A lot of furnishing firms have now switched to using sustainably sourced timber. What this means is that they only buy their wood from FSC certified suppliers, which means that the wood used in the furniture, as well as the manufacturer that made it, meets the strict requirements of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
The FSC is a non-profit organization that ensures forestry is carried out in an environmentally and socially responsible way. All FSC forests are properly managed, ensuring that new trees grow and that the forests are not depleted. In addition, the FSC certifies that the social and economic wellbeing of forest workers and local communities is also respected.
A similar certification system is undertaken by the Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes (PEFC). PEFC certification is also the mark of sustainable timber.
You can find out if the furniture that you are intending to purchase is sustainable by checking if it possesses either of these labels.
Another rule of thumb is that European sourced wood tends to be more sustainable than in other parts of the world, simply because the EU has set up stricter standards.
Endangered and exotic woods
Avoid buying exotic woods from tropical countries. In particular, ebony, teak, sapele, merbau, wenge and Brazilian mahogany are endangered and should be avoided, as the supply cannot keep up with demand.
Softwoods such as bamboo, pine and other evergreens are sustainable because they grow quicker than hardwoods, such as oak and mahogany. The word ‘softwood’ can be a little misleading, as these woods remain very resilient and hardwearing, especially when compared to synthetic materials.
It is true that furniture items that are made sustainably may cost a little more. However, they usually turn out to be a better investment, as they tend to be better crafted and last longer than cheaper, lower quality alternatives.
Sustainability is not only about creating a greener lifestyle; it is also a sign of quality. Many of the definitive, age-old brands have now turned to sustainability and classic brands such as Ercol are now manufactured using sustainably sourced timber only.