Design procurement consultancy Dodds & Shute has ranked Swedish furniture brands as the most sustainable in the world. On top of that, firms from Scandinavia are topping the prestigious sustainability ranking. We speak to Cecilia Ask Engström, head of industry development at The Swedish Federation of Wood and Furniture Industry, on Scandinavia’s green impact on furniture manufacturing.
How come Sweden is so good when it comes to sustainability?
— I think that most swedes grow up with a close connection to nature, which results in it being natural for swedes to care about the environment. This in combination with Sweden, already from the get-go, establishing quite strict environmental laws affecting all production in Sweden.
— Compared to other industrialized countries, Sweden still has a large furniture production when compared to other branches of industry. With Sweden being aware of the importance of this, we have also acquired a sensible focus on production which has led to larger control of our complete production.
Many Scandinavian firms score the highest in the list. Have you experienced that the Scandinavian sustainable mindset differs from the rest of the world?
— I think that people in Scandinavia has a closer connection to nature and that might be a large part behind their reasoning about why we should do less harm to nature.
What are some of the lessons other countries can learn?
— That there is no good alternative to producing sustainable products. It is also very important to cooperate to find common solutions, if the industry cooperates and has the same demands, it is easier for suppliers to invest in new and more sustainable solutions.
What does this report mean for the Swedish furniture companies?
— This report is important, many Swedish furniture companies have invested a lot to be able to produce more sustainable products and they sometimes find that in the end the customer still chooses the cheapest product. The consequence of this report will hopefully result in a larger quantity of these customers, in these types of cases, will start working with only the most sustainable companies. It is highly important that the customer makes these conscious decisions.
How much is down to the consumers? Are they the ones putting the pressure on manufacturers to be sustainable?
— In Sweden, the public procurer requires sustainable furniture in public tenders. Private consumers have historically not been so interested in sustainability. I think that we are now seeing how this is changing.
— I think that in the end consumers should not have to think so much about buying sustainable products. I think that the manufacturers instead only should produce and offer the customers sustainable products.
The Dodds & Shute report also said that many global furniture manufacturers turn a blind eye to sustainable issues. What are your experiences with this?
— It is time-consuming and you have to invest to be able to achieve sustainable production. You have to have control over every part of your business in a detailed manner. Some global furniture manufactures focus more on short term wins.
How much does this mean for the industry?
— I think that the Swedish furniture industry should be really proud, all their work they have put in to be able to produce sustainable products has resulted in that they now are world leaders in producing sustainable furniture.
How is the industry doing in the pandemic?
— In the spring the industry had a really tough period, there was almost no orders. In may we started to see positive signs. No producers for the domestic market has (kitchen, beds home furniture) have a good year. On the other hand producers for the contract market still has a tough market situation.
How does the future look or the furniture industry? Any specific challenges?
— The whole industry is working with transformation into digitalization and producing circular products. I think that the covid pandemic will affect the way we live our lives that will affect the industry, there is a lot of discussions about the future office. How and where will we meet and work?