Responsibly Sourced Furniture

September 2, 2021

Responsibly Sourced Furniture

Global Campaign to ensure that wooden furniture and components are Responsibly sourced. By Alun Watkins Executive Director of PEFC and Chairman of FISP.

The furnishings industry is the third-highest user of wood in the world, behind the construction and paper industries. It also accounts for approximately 12 percent of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions. The value of the global furniture market is up 65% in just the last 10 years, making sustainability more important than ever.  

The big message from the recent IPCC report is -  We’re reaching irreversible tipping points that will lead to drastic changes in ecosystems with devastating effects for all life on this planet.

These are just some of the reasons why this sector needs to take action now, to help with the climate emergency. There are many ways you can do this, including being certified to environmental management systems, becoming a member of FISP (Furniture Industry Sustainability Programme) or by just improving the way you work, with full consideration to reducing your environmental footprint. 

There are many ways that you as a company can make these improvements, but I would like to concentrate in this blog on sourcing timber responsibly and therefore ensuring that forests are managed sustainably. We all know that trees are good for the planet, that they absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, in fact we can’t live without them. So trees not only sequester carbon whilst growing, but also store that carbon after conversion and during the life of the finished product. Therefore, as an industry making wooden furniture, which is built to last, we are storing carbon for many years to come and making a real difference. 

office fit out london room pods
Responsibly Sourced Furniture used in an Office Pod

Wooden Furniture supply chain sustainability and responsible procurement is therefore critical to ensure that we all benefit from the many products that forests provide, while ensuring these forests will be around for generations to come. 

To ensure this, it is important that you purchase the right kind of timber products to use in your manufacturing processes. This is timber that comes from legal and sustainable sources. Legislation is now in place to ensure that you do not import illegally harvested timber into the country, but we need to go further than that and know that we are buying from sustainable sources where the forests are managed correctly, the forest biodiversity is enhanced or maintained and the local communities are protected. For some time now the two global forest certification schemes PEFC and FSC have made sustainable timber accessible to many industries, therefore giving companies a relatively easy way to show good governance in their procurement policies. 

However, furniture products being sold with PEFC or FSC labels still appear hard to come by and more often or not limited to the office furniture sector, or sectors where board materials such as chipboard are dominant. I rarely find, when visiting independent retailers of domestic furniture any mention of sustainability and when asking for information on species and origin of the likeable dining table and chairs, I get blank looks and little information.

I understand that corporate supply chains can be complex and far removed from the end product. Also, with the use of multiple components of sometimes differing solid wood species, it is understandable why the domestic furniture sector has not embraced timber certification like other sectors. However, by not taking into consideration the environmental, social and governance performance of suppliers, companies leave themselves exposed to significant operational and reputational risks. In addition, their impact on people and the environment can be substantial. There is also a catch 22 here as well. Some will say that the material they require is not available as certified, but the forest owners will not usually gain certification unless they know there is a market to sell to.

To help overcome this PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification) is working across the supply chain in raising the bar and finding solutions to this problem. PEFC, is the world’s largest forest certification system (with over 330 million hectares certified worldwide), whose mission is to unlock and build on the full contribution of forests for a sustainable world. PEFC also partner with local people to promote responsible forestry and improve livelihoods of smallholders, rural communities & workers through third-party forest certification. 

Responsibly Sourced Furniture office furniture suppliers
Responsibly Sourced Furniture: Sustainable Office Desks

So, we all have a role to play to ensure forests stay as forests while meeting our needs and those of future generations. The PEFC chain of custody standards is a mechanism which enables companies to demonstrate their legal and sustainable sourcing of forest-based products, to their customers, through independent verified auditing. Those with chain of custody certification can, not only market themselves as a company committed to using only responsibly sourced material, but also know that by being members of PEFC they are helping forests all over the world to become sustainable

To help the industry improve and to become more sustainable, PEFC are launching its Global Furniture Campaign, starting with a webinar on 15th September at 9 AM UK time. The objectives will be to: 

• Raise awareness of the importance of sustainably sourced forest-based furniture products. Explain why responsibly sourced wooden furniture can improve the livelihoods of millions of people, wildlife habitat, help preserve the world’s forests, its ecosystem, biodiversity, and contribute to climate change mitigation 

• Call for collaboration from all stakeholders 

Outcomes of the campaign will include digital marketing strategies that will raise awareness of sustainable procurement with individual companies being able to demonstrate their wood-based material responsible sourcing with a clear inclusive procurement policy. Companies will get to know their upstream suppliers and implement with them the responsible procurement policy. This will lead to an increase of sourcing forest-based materials from sustainably managed forests, eventually leading to sourcing 100% of certified materials.

This is an exciting time for the furniture industry and a time when we have to be seen to be making a difference. So please attend the webinar and join our campaign and hopefully the next time I venture out to buy some furniture the poster and the PEFC logo in the corner or the shop will tell me all I need to know about their procurement policies.

Webinar details 

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