Sustainability starts basically with the decisions we make. This includes everything from the materials used to make the product, the manufacturing process, and the life cycle of furniture.
Surprisingly, office furniture can have a very short lifespan and according to the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) 1.2 million ofﬁce desks and 1.8 million ofﬁce chairs end up in UK landﬁll each year. With numbers like this, it’s easy to see why improving sustainability has become a priority. Small positive changes like sustainable office furniture can enhance working conditions, improve team motivation, and increase productivity, all whilst evidently reducing the effects on the environment.
Many businesses are being redesigned to accommodate less desk density and more social spaces for interaction and informal meetings. In our blog, we explore key principles on how to integrate sustainable best practices along with helpful tips and advice.
Sustainable Office Furniture – An Overview
Creating the ideal space with the right office furniture is indeed a necessity. It’s proven that our workspace setting can affect our productivity, but in a changing world, it’s also important we consider the eco-credentials of the raw materials used to manufacture office furnishings, and the processes involved starting from the factory through to the warehouse, and ultimately the delivery to the end-user.
It is often found that products made from sustainable materials have a longer lifecycle as they are generally built to last. Did you know, as a rule, the average life cycle of good quality office desks and chairs should be expected to last somewhere in the range of seven to ten years? Most manufacturers will provide at least a five-year warranty, and all good furniture manufacturers and dealers can supply a list of components and materials, that will detail exactly what goes into the furniture you buy.
Furniture that’s good for the environment and your health
There are prohibited materials and ‘chemicals of concern’ to look out for when purchasing sustainable office furniture. Any good consultant will be able to offer guidance on the safe purchase of non-toxic furniture. This ensures no harmful pollutants are present, like VOC’s which can also have a negative impact on health, causing symptoms like headaches, tiredness, and nausea.
It is also worth noting, for office furniture to be sustainable itself, it should be easily maintained, hard-wearing, and adaptable.
There are many ways to ensure you are buying wooden furniture and components that are responsibly sourced. Here are a couple of examples of certifications you can expect with most sustainable office furniture ranges:
FSC – The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certifies forests all over the world. This ensures they meet the highest environmental and social standards. By choosing furniture from office furniture manufacturers that have received the FSC certification guarantees trees that are harvested are replaced or allowed to regenerate naturally and is endorsed by WWF and The Woodland Trust.
PEFC – the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification is an international organisation that promotes sustainable forest management through independent third-party certification. PEFC chain of custody certification provides companies with the verified assurance that the certified forest-based material contained in a product originates from sustainably managed forests.
End of Use and Furniture Recycling
We don’t often stop to think about the end-of-life cycle for our staple workspace assets. However, if you’re looking to improve your business’s carbon footprint some consideration is recommended.
Questions you could start to think about include, could existing furniture be reused elsewhere within the business? Can redundant furniture be broken down and fully recycled? Or could the furniture be donated to a charity, trust, or other non-profit organisation?
Tips for Purchasing Sustainable Office Furniture
There are lots of things you can do in the workplace to make your office more environmentally friendly. This includes the procurement of office furniture. Below, we have put together our top three helpful tips for buying cost-effective sustainable furniture:
Tip 1: Can you re-use or repurpose existing furniture?
If you’ve made the decision to update your workspace, don’t just automatically think you need to replace every piece. It’s quite possible you can incorporate your existing furniture with new to create a new enhanced office. Not only will this save money, but it also allows products to have a longer life cycle. It will also reduce the amount of office furniture sent to landfills or waste incinerators.
Tip 2. If you are buying new furniture, do your homework! We would suggest choosing furniture that is made from recycled materials, and sustainable wood.
More and more furniture is being made from recycled plastics and metals. Products made from recycled materials require less processing and resources and are a lot friendlier for our environment.
If you are purchasing new furniture, try to source locally to reduce energy consumption in transportation.
Tip 3. Buy from responsible manufacturers
When it comes to selecting your new office furniture you won’t be short of choice or variety. But to make sure you receive the best value you should look at manufacturers’ standards to corroborate that your new purchases are eco-friendly.
FISP – The Furniture Industry Sustainable Programme is an independently certified sustainability programme tailored to the needs of the Furniture industry supply chain. FISP is significantly recognised as the benchmark for sustainable practices in the UK furniture industry. It is widely referenced by tenders, procurement, and furniture specifiers as a key part of an organisation’s sustainable procurement strategies.
All organisations that have achieved the FISP certification will have had to demonstrate how the 3 pillars of sustainability are embedded within their organisation. Section 1 is compulsory. Checking the environmental policy is appropriate to the business, and the legal system to ensure environmental and Health & Safety legislation is complied with. Section 2 of the audit focuses on an organisation’s operations that have a direct and indirect impact on the environment. And section 3 addresses social and economic criteria.
As responsible office furniture dealers, we make certain the manufacturers we work with consider their impact on the environment. This includes the raw material selection and product life cycle. We aim to only buy from reputable manufacturers who are also energy efficient. We vet all companies annually to check they are addressing the latest environmental issues and look for certified environmental management systems like ISO 14001.
Purchasing Sustainable Office Furniture – Summary
We believe in looking after our world. There are a host of benefits to your business for choosing to purchase sustainable office furniture, they include:
- Achieve cost savings. Buying sustainable furniture saves money as furniture will have a longer life cycle.
- Reduce environmental impacts. Purchasing recycled furniture saves energy and fuel that is needed in the manufacturing process. Buying sustainable furniture made from recycled materials is also better for the environment.
- Improve your corporate social responsibility. Purchasing sustainable office furniture helps raise awareness and provides a positive impact within your own business.
At COI we have a variety of sustainable solutions from our versatile office furniture ranges including desking, seating, storage, tables, and additionally social space solutions, right through to recycling options. So, if you are moving office or looking to refurbish existing space and would like to find out more about how simple changes can improve your business’s sustainability, get in touch, little things can make a big difference and we’d love to be part of your greener future.
Last Updated on June 29, 2023