What are the sustainability challenges in the sofa industry?
For the first time, I sense that the sustainability issue is being taken seriously, that it’s real now. At long last, in my opinion. The pressure is coming from consumers, and this naturally affects retailers. It will be challenging for all manufacturers to keep up in this respect, because things are now moving quickly. If I had to highlight one specific area, it would be transport. Dealing with all the plastic used in transport packaging is a major challenge. It’s a complex task, as there are so many different sizes of furniture. But this work has to be done – it’s a matter of transforming and adapting the business. We set out on our journey several years ago. Today, for example, all leather waste is utilised and turned into products such as mobile phone cases. And leftover fabric from the sofa manufacturing process is made into sacks to hold the leather waste.
How do you work with sustainability now?
In order to ensure that social, environmental and quality requirements on our part are met, we have developed a supplier policy that all suppliers have signed and have to adhere to. Our aim is to adopt a long-term approach in our work with our suppliers, and thereby build up a strong collaboration that benefits our work on sustainability issues. Our fabric and leather suppliers, for example, have to satisfy requirements according to REACH, an EU regulation relating to the production and safe use of chemicals. In addition, an increasing proportion of our fabrics also meet the requirements for Oeko-Tex, a worldwide system certifying that the fabrics do not contain chemicals that cause negative effects, either to people or the environment.
When will Furninova’s first Swan-labelled sofa arrive?
It’s already here, having undergone testing at RISE (Research Institutes of Sweden). RISE works with industrial research and innovation, as well as performing testing and certification. The Nordic Swan Ecolabel is the best-known ecolabel in the Scandinavian countries, delivering certification and scope with world-class environmental goals. But this is just the beginning. In the future, we will be making sofas primarily from climate-smart materials.
What does the fact that you are FSC-certified mean?
Most people are probably familiar with FSC and know that it’s a good thing, although not exactly how. Being FSC-certified is a guarantee that all the wood comes from sustainably grown forest. For us, this means that the entire chain is certified, from raw material to finished product. FSC is also working to improve the living and working conditions of forest workers, as well as to clarify the relationship between responsible forestry and actions that can mitigate climate change. For our customers, and ultimately for consumers, this means that they can rest assured that the furniture we manufacture takes both nature and people into consideration.
How do you think sustainability issues will affect sofa sales in future?
This will definitely affect all of us more and more in future. Here in the Nordic region, we are at the forefront regarding these issues, but other countries are making significant strides. It’s a matter of reviewing the entire production process and reducing the use of metals, water and chemicals, as well as using more sustainable materials. This may initially result in higher production costs, but it will gradually even out as the rise is largely related to high starting costs.
You talk about long-term collaborations. How is this sustainable?
Good dialogue is an important part of long-term collaborations, where we discuss what we need going forward and thereby lay the foundations for well-planned investments. We act as a guarantor, providing security for our business partners. Our brand new factory in Poland, for example, is self-sufficient when it comes to heating, with any surplus being sold on. We are planning to install solar cells in connection with the factory, which will allow it to supply its own electricity. I believe it is important for us to be able to meet our partners at a senior level and develop these important issues together.
How does the sustainability issue affect the choice of suppliers?
It has a considerable impact. If a company doesn’t keep up-to-date on these issues, they will lose business and be mercilessly discarded.
Do you have a special memory from your career with sofas you would like to share?
At the beginning of my time at Furninova, we were riding on the crest of a huge wave of success. We had a completely new position on the market, with good design and quality at great prices thanks to our in-house manufacturing in Poland. At the furniture fairs, we felt a bit like rock stars. There were queues to our stand, with people shouting and tugging at us, all in order to buy our products. The competition is stiffer now, but our success has continued, albeit at a slightly more moderate level. There are also numerous stories of clashes between my mathematical, slightly square brain and other more creative brains. Then there are all the times when someone has wanted to change something, usually just for the sake of change. I particularly remember one occasion when a customer wanted to adjust the incline of the backrest by one millimetre. I don’t believe that adjustment was especially noticeable in terms of comfort.
Hand on heart, how sustainably do you live your life?
I have to brag a little about my home municipality. They have come a long way on these issues, particularly when it comes to sorting at source. We now sort into ten different fractions in different containers in the Nordqvist home. I may possibly have become something of an ogre when it comes to enforcing this, but I think these issues are important.
Finally, what sofa do you have at home?
We have three sofas, all of which are from Furninova. Anything else would be completely unthinkable, even though my partner has attempted a coup on one occasion. Furninova is always striving to have one of the widest ranges of sofa models on the market, enabling us to offer models to suit every need. And if my partner still can’t find a suitable Furninova sofa, I can complain to our designers.
If you would like to know more, read our Sustainability Report