Are Sustainability Certifications No Longer Necessary?

The GreenGuard or Forest Stewardship Council certifications have made it simple for interior designers to select healthier, safer finishes and furnishings. However, a new generation of manufacturers is eschewing these famous seals of approval in favour of transparent green programmes and processes that do not require users to see a stamp.

Are Sustainability Certifications No Longer Necessary?
Are Sustainability Certifications No Longer Necessary?

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Sabai Design and Outer, and vendors such as Heirloom Design and Denver Enterprises, are among this growing group of companies that have found certifications to be prohibitively expensive and exclusive.

“The motivation is admirable, but it can become diluted when so much money is involved,” says Emma Holland Denver, a designer and founder of Denver in Los Angeles. She believes that certifications are only viable for large companies due to their complexity and expense.


Another question is whether certifications adequately inform users about a product’s story. While labels can serve as quick, easily identifiable stamps, they have limitations. For instance, some focus exclusively on development and ignore the supply chain, labour, or delivery process. Others evaluate merchandise in part based on the manufacturer’s purchase of carbon offsets, which may or may not fully offset the manufacturer’s emissions.

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“Theories and metrics for calculating sustainability are constantly evolving,” says Phantila Phataraprasit, cofounder of Sabai Design, a women-led manufacturer of circular seating that is simple to assemble.

The sustainability agenda
The sustainability agenda

Denver Enterprises recently surveyed its clients and discovered that while they value sustainability, they believe certifications are unattainable. As a more affordable and straightforward alternative, Denver created the online platform Sustainability Check, which compiles and shares environmental information about the products made by its independent brands. Specifiers can peruse brief descriptions of product features that may have a positive impact on the environment.

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Similarly, Sabai, which began operations three years ago, benefited from an approachable presentation of all aspects of its furniture operations, from material sourcing to the social impact of its women-led organization. According to its website, its sofas, sectionals, and ottomans are non-toxic, made in the United States, and circular. Phataraprasit and cofounder Caitlin Ellen believe that amplifying their closed-loop system will have a more significant impact than a one-time certification, which “does not lend itself to ongoing improvement and tracking,” according to Phataraprasit.

While it may seem self-evident, many businesses, including Outer, manufacture outdoor seating made from recycled ocean plastic and 3D-printed furnishings made from agricultural waste and plant-based biopolymers.

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Additionally, newcomers discover that ingredient transparency contributes significantly to designer engagement as such lists of components frequently include certified materials. Sabai’s seating, for example, is made from FSC-certified wood and certified eco-friendly foam. Some businesses have formed collectives rather than obtaining zero-waste certifications, with members serving as verification.

Certificate in Sustainable Business
Certificate in Sustainable Business

Holland Denver notes that the simplicity of this list exemplifies “one-way manufacturers can present useful information without purchasing certificates.”

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“The issue we’re attempting to address is the 12 million tonnes of furniture that end up in landfills each year.” Eighty per cent comes from contracts and commercial real estate, “explains Dave Bryant, co-founder of Heirloom Design, a growing network of trade consumers, manufacturers, and diverse artisans committed to diverting high-quality furnishings from landfills by extending their useful lives.

Heirloom, a collaboration between Uhuru Design and One Workplace, launched on Earth Day. Bryant and cofounders Judd Rosengart, Jason Horvath, and Chris Ferrari are currently developing a proprietary technology “to provide a mechanism for the circular economy… a process for repurposing things,” Bryant explains. The heirloom will also include a royalty structure that will compensate the original manufacturer.

“Let us concentrate on the behaviours,” Bryant says, highlighting the irony of relying too heavily on third-party seals. After all, what good is a certified item if it is rotting in a landfill?

Written By Tannu Sharma | Subscribe To Our Telegram Channel To Get Latest Updates And Don’t Forget To Follow Our Social Media Handles Facebook Instagram LinkedIn Twitter. To Get the Latest Updates From Arco Unico

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