Furniture Today for a Better Tomorrow

Written by: Fran Horowitz

As a company, Empire is committed to responsible environmental stewardship and doing what we can to create a better world for generations to come. 

We have seen client requests for sustainable products dramatically increase in recent years, and our brand partners are also heeding the call. This June at Neocon, sustainability stories were front and center, and the new buzzword in every showroom: circular economy. 

Steelcase started with its most popular work chairs, Steelcase Series™ 1, certifying it as a CarbonNeutral® product in 2022. As of July 2023, Steelcase’s portfolio of high-performance chairs including Steelcase Karman, Gesture, Leap, Think, Amia, Steelcase Series 2 and Steelcase Series 1 are available with a CarbonNeutral® product certification to help businesses achieve their climate commitments.  

In 2022, Humanscale became the first and only furniture manufacturer to be awarded TRUE® Gold and Silver certifications for all factories globally. TRUE® stands for Total Resource Use and Efficiency and is administered by Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI) to help facilities define, pursue, and achieve zero waste goals while becoming more resource efficient. Additionally, 26 products from Humanscale’s portfolio have been certified net positive. 

The retreeve Tables Collection from BOLD Furniture includes innovative, sustainable statement pieces that champion a circular economy and environmental responsibility. Displaying striking butcherblock surfaces, the retreeve Tables Collection is resourcefully crafted from recycled solid wood, MDF, particle board, and plywood, all recovered from BOLD Furniture’s own manufacturing scraps. This direct reuse of industrial materials in the table designs not only reduces waste but also supports a circular economy, minimizing the environmental impact of the manufacturing process. 

Andreu World is the first company in the world with a complete 100% FSC offering and the first European manufacturer to achieve LEVEL® certification. They have developed their own fabrics from plastic PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles and textile waste and are committed to achieving 100% of materials and processes in the circular economy by 2025.  

Just like in many other industries, sustainably made products, responsibly sourced materials, and zero-waste are top of mind topics for companies as they plan and design their workspaces. As sustainability and circular economy principles gain traction, there is a growing emphasis on extending the lifespan of office furniture through refurbishment, reallocation, and reuse. 

According to a recent report from Deloitte, about half of Gen Zs and millennials are pressuring businesses to act on climate change. And many sources cite that consumers are increasingly willing to pay a premium for sustainable products and solutions. 

Our manufacturing partners are dedicated to the protection of the environment and the health of employees, neighbors and clients through proactive environmental management that reduces waste, conserves resources, and promotes recycling. 

New tools such as Ecomedes, and others like it, are aiding in the availability of this type of information, making it easier to find and specify products and materials that fit a certain level of certification—all within one searchable database.  

If your workplace requires a certain level of sustainability commitment, having a partner to help guide you through what to do next is key. Here are some practical tips for how to implement a sustainable approach within your workplace strategy:  

Trade up 

With the explosion of ancillary, the options are truly endless. Empire can help recommend like-for-like alternate products that meet at the sweet spot of the right design aesthetic, price point, and lead time, yet offer a more green-minded option. Our Creative Studio specialists are experts at knowing what to specify now 

Think ahead 

Developing an end of life and reuse strategy can also help drive towards a sustainability goal in identifying ways to deal with existing, unwanted furniture. Whether the outcome is donation, liquidation, recycling, or reuse, we sensitize clients to the issues of environmental care in the decommissioning of their products.  

Data speaks 

You may not even realize the impact your program is already having. Environmental metrics reporting can help a company track the progress a program is making over time, especially with large or frequent purchasing, and is available with some of our major manufacturing partners like Steelcase.  

Regardless of whether a project is going for LEED or WELL certifications, with all things being equal, doing what’s right for the environment is always the right call, and every little bit helps. 

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