Green is in—even during difficult economic times. That is the conclusion of a recent survey by Boston Consulting Group of 9,000 consumers world-wide. According to this study, more consumers purchased green products in 2008 than in 2007, despite the economic downturn in business activity. Furthermore, most consumers are willing to pay more for green products if they are considered to be of high quality. The report concludes, "The green movement is about reducing waste and minimizing our impact on the environment. Companies that translate these goals into a holistic approach to offering differentiated green products, bringing down costs across the entire value chain, have been rewarded with higher margins and market share." Almost 75% of consumers surveyed said that it is important for companies to have a good environmental record and 50% of respondents said that they would be willing to pay 5% or more for green products.
The trend is affecting the furniture industry too. Bill Perdue, vice president of environmental affairs, safety/health and standards at the American Home Furnishings Alliance says "Consumers’ attitude toward ‘green’ products has moved from ‘tell me’ to ‘show me’ to now, ‘prove it to me’. It is no longer satisfactory to just market a product as ‘green’. It must be demonstrated." Other evidence of the industry’s embracing of a green culture is evidenced by Furniture Today’s launching of an online Green supplement and newsletters focusing on green initiatives, the growth of the Sustainable Furnishings Council to over 300 members in three years, and the success of the AHFA’s Sustainable by Design Program. This program provides member companies with the education and resources needed to develop sustainable business practices. The first step to completing the Sustainable by Design Program is a management system called Enhancing Furniture’s Environmental Culture (EFEC).
Enhancing Furniture’s Environmental Culture is a voluntary management system with the purpose of developing and maintaining a strong, proactive environmental program. It is designed to help furniture manufacturers move beyond regulatory compliance to environmental stewardship. Membership in the American Home Furnishings Alliance is required. Registration for EFEC is earned at each individual manufacturing facility and requires each facility to analyze and better understand the environmental impact of its operations, raw materials and finished products. Implementation of EFEC leads to better management of resources and raw materials, reduced energy and water consumption, reduced waste disposal and associated costs, and improvements in overall operational performance and efficiency. EFEC is designed to take the furniture industry to the next level in environmental performance, manufacturing efficiency, customer satisfaction and public image. It allows companies to utilize their current resources and existing programs to realize the full benefits of improving their environmental stewardship. According to the EFEC mission statement, the "AHFA members are committed to leading member companies in ways that benefit society, the economy and the environment while maintaining a strong commitment to consumers, the community, employees and shareholders."
EFEC is implemented through the use of a company’s internal staff. There are no negative impacts on production and no fees to AHFA for program materials and instruction. The only costs associated with the program are the time costs for team members. These costs are estimated to be about $15,000 for a typical implementation or about 582 hours. Typical program implementation times vary from about 8 to 18 months. One key to the success of the program is that top management must be committed to the process and program. A diverse and talented team with a charismatic team champion also increases the odds of success of EFEC. Company size is not an issue—EFEC provides measurable benefits to companies of all sizes. For example, a large upholstered furniture manufacturer reduced electrical use by 9%, natural gas use by 25%, water usage by 23%, landfill use by 14.7%, and generated 1.9 million dollars in revenue thru recycling 50 million pounds of waste material. A medium sized company reduced natural gas consumption by 50% and realized $250,000 savings in reduced use of energy and water. A very small, family owned company reduced energy consumption by 8%, water use by 5%, landfill use by 20% and realized a savings of $350,000, which allowed them to retain all of their employees during the recent recession. This savings is substantial for a company with sales of $10 million a year.
An AHFA certified auditor audits the facility and submits the registration application to the EFEC board of examiners after all requirements are completed. Pending board approval, EFEC registration is valid for three years.
As mentioned previously, EFEC is merely the first step in becoming a certified Sustainable by Design manufacturer. The next three phases include sustainable supply chain management, calculation of a corporate environmental footprint, and assessment of social performance. Sustainable by Design provides a road map for home furnishings companies to create a corporate culture of conservation and environmental stewardship by integrating sustainable business practices into the manufacturing operations and sourcing strategies. It is a corporate program that provides a broad umbrella leading to a sustainable culture throughout the entire corporation and supply chain.
Companies interested in becoming EFEC certified must complete specific requirements as detailed in the guidance document. The requirements include:
For more information on the Sustainable by Design program contact Bill Martin, at 662-325-3348 email@example.com.