By Marilyn Nason
Can today’s home furnishings companies’ bottom lines afford extensive, ongoing and in-depth sustainability program commitments and still remain competitive globally?
For the nearly 100 home furnishings executives and environmental managers attending last month’s two-day American Home Furnishings Alliance sustainability summit in Greensboro, N.C., the answer was yes.
Specifically addressing this significant question, several major industry leaders outlined the environmental steps they have initiated and how these have not only significantly reduced their corporate environmental footprint but, at the same time, also positively affected their return on investment by adding considerable dollars to their bottom lines.
As consumers increasingly question so-called “greenwashing” claims in everything they buy today, AHFA has become a leader in helping its membership reach the highest possible levels of sustainability while not having these initiatives become an ongoing negative to the bottom line.
Thus, it stressed the importance of sustainability summit opportunities for the industry to exchange ideas it has instituted in its own corporate structures to meet consumer demands and be environmental stewards at the same time.
Diana Dobin, senior vice president, Valley Forge Fabrics, Pompano Beach, Fla.; Greg Carpenter, human resources manager, C.R. Laine Furniture Co., Hickory, N.C.; Cisco Pinedo, lead designer, Cisco Brothers, L.A.; Eddie Pitts, corporate coordinator, Bernhardt Furniture, Lenoir, N.C., and David Bennett, vice president/distribution, Rooms To Go, Suwanee, Ga., all emphasized the positive fiscal results and considerable environmental factors that have emerged from their corporate-wide commitment to reduce waste, fuel consumption and explore all avenues of recycling/reuse.
Examples described included encouraging “last one out turns off the lights” and turning off vendor machine lights.
Printing on both sides of paper documents when practical to eliminating trucking/hauling waste costs through varied in-house methods; establishing internal cardboard/packing materials compaction equipment; and re-evaluating all fuel and water usage were other examples..
As one of the presentations at the summit on how one company has responded to industry sustainability challenges, Diana Dobin of Valley Forge Fabrics, largest worldwide hospitality industry decorative fabric supplier, explained her company’s Fabric Redefining Environmental Standards initiative.
The initiative includes sustainable product development/production, which has resulted in recent introduction of several recyclable blends for upholstery as well as their introduction of bedding fabrics made from recyclable eucalyptus/cotton blend.
Winner of the first SAGE Sustainability by Design award, co-sponsored by AHFA and Cargill’s BiOH polypols, was presented during the summit to Hickory (NC.) Chair Co.