The rise of sustainability in the furniture industry

Attitudes toward sustainability are shifting, and it has become increasingly important for brands and retailers to participate in green initiatives and develop more sustainable products and processes.

Consumers worldwide are demanding more and more sustainable products across many segments, and industries are working quickly to adapt. It is no different in the furniture sector, where growing numbers of consumers are looking for sustainable equipment for their homes and offices.

According to the 2021 Green Home Furnishings Consumer Study by the Sustainable Furnishings Council, many consumers are concerned about environmental issues such as global warming, indoor air quality, and deforestation. Practicing eco-friendly habits has become nearly universal, and purchases of environmentally safe furnishings are on the rise.

The three most important attributes respondents said they look for when purchasing furniture were unchanged from previous years, but sustainability concerns entered in the fourth position for the first time:

  • Style (100%)
  • Quality (98%)
  • Fair price (95%)
  • Made with materials and processes that do not harm the environment (86%)

According to the report, over 96% of home furnishings purchasers would choose eco-friendly home furnishings if they liked the style and the price was within their budget.

Source: 2021 Green Home Furnishings Consumer Study by the Sustainable Furnishings Council

This change in consumer preferences confirms that we are at a stage in which integrating sustainability into a company’s strategy will help it achieve a competitive advantage in the long term. There are additional reasons to shift toward a more environmentally sustainable process, including ensuring environmental compliance, corporate responsibility and transparency, saving costs with better use of natural resources, and improving the positive impact on the planet.

One of the issues the sector faces in the journey toward a more sustainable supply chain is a lack of knowledge not only from consumers but also from the different players along the product’s lifecycle. Although there has been significant improvement in recent years, sustainability remains an overwhelming topic for many furniture industry players.

Becoming more sustainable can start with small steps in any stage of the product lifecycle, such as more sustainable materials, manufacturing practices, or transportation.

Seven of the key areas that apply to environmental sustainability are:

     1.  Environmental management systems
     2.  Energy and GHG emissions
     3.  Water use
     4.  Wastewater management
     5.  Emissions to air
     6.  Waste management
     7.  Chemical management

Where is the best place to begin? The importance of a good start is to have a solid understanding of the supply chain and its different suppliers from the outset until the finished product. It will then be possible to define realistic objectives and a clear road map at both the brand and the supply chain level.

Five steps to begin your journey

    1.  Understand your supply chain
    2. Define your objectives
    3. Supply chain assessment (environmental & chemical management)
    4. Product level sustainability
    5. Traceability assessment


At API, we help our customers in their sustainability journey, no matter their level of maturity in the topic. Our sustainability experts can help evaluate, verify, and improve the environmental impact of your products and processes with our strategic and tailor-made solutions. We can adapt our services to your needs using a global framework, your own framework, or by helping you from scratch with API’s bespoke framework.

Our solutions cover:

  • Environmental management solutions
  • Chemical management solutions
  • Product sustainability and traceability solutions
  • Leather sustainability solutions
  • Hardgoods training resource center

You can find out more about our solutions here.

Interested in learning how we can help your brand with a tailored sustainability assessment?