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From the Greta effect to green furnishing

How sustainable consumer behaviour is changing the furniture sector

Green, greener, Greta: climate protection has long been a topic of discussion. But the sustainability debate only really gained momentum with the emergence of the Fridays for Future movement. One effect it has had is in making people’s consumer behaviour increasingly sustainable – a trend that can also be observed in the interiors sector. But on what exactly does the market focus? And are there differences between various countries? We take a look at how the industry is changing.

The Fridays for Future movement

The Fridays for Future movement has directed the focus towards climate change and is thereby a major factor influencing the behaviour of many consumers. The effect can also be felt in the furniture industry. (Photo: Mika Baumeister on Unsplash)

Fridays for Future and the Greta effect

In recent years, the Fridays for Future movement initiated by the young activist Greta Thunberg has managed to put the focus on climate change and fundamentally shifted attitudes. This change can predominantly be seen in the consumer behaviour of young people, which is also described as the Greta effect: avoiding air travel, switching to a vegan diet, and choosing recycled clothing or sustainable furnishings are just a few examples.

However, Generation Z is not only reconsidering their own habits. Young people are also putting companies under close scrutiny and making conscious choices for or against brands. Wielding the purchasing power of tomorrow, they are challenging entire industries to make raw materials, production processes, supply chains and marketing more sustainable. As a result, the Greta effect is an increasingly influential force in the world of business.


The image above shows the relevance of sustainability, highlighted by the growing interest in sustainability and climate protection seals. (Foto: imm cologne)

Changed consumer behaviour in Germany

Wanting to live in a more sustainable way is all well and good. But are German consumers prepared to pay more for sustainable products? According to a survey by Statista in February 2020, a quarter of respondents in Germany would pay five percent more for sustainable products. A ten-percent premium would be acceptable for 30 percent of respondents, and as much as 14 percent would dig even deeper into their pockets.

There are other factors influencing consumer behaviour besides sustainability: social responsibility also plays a bigger part in purchase decisions these days. 28.6 million people in Germany think the environmental and social responsibility shouldered by companies is important – and that figure is growing. Fair conditions in production and retailing have also been steadily gaining in importance for years. In 2021, around 16 million consumers favoured Fairtrade products, compared to 11.98 million in 2013.

The US market for sustainable furniture

A US study from 2020 reveals how the transformation is making its mark in the furnishing industry in particular. According to the study, the market for sustainable furniture was worth an estimated US$32.5 billion in 2019. Demand for green housing projects, resource-saving packaging, refurbished vintage furniture and cradle-to-cradle designs is particularly high. 76 percent of Americans would also pay more for environmentally friendly furniture.

These figures can be seen as an indicator for future developments in Germany. The study also provides information about another factor that influences consumer behaviour: health. Traditional furniture, carpets, paint and varnish can release harmful substances into the air. In contrast, chemicals are avoided as far as possible in sustainable furnishing. And the desire for pollutant-free products could drive sustainability in the furniture sector even further.

The furnishing industry goes greener

As we know, demand determines supply. In recent years, the furnishing industry has conceived more and more sustainable solutions in order to satisfy the demands of the market. Numerous furniture stores have introduced sustainable product lines, for example tables made of renewable raw materials and highly durable sofas. In turn, manufacturers have made changes in production processes or supply chains in an effort to reduce their environmental footprint and shoulder more social responsibility.

A growing number of furniture start-ups with sustainability at the core of their business model are being launched, many of which then go on to develop new trends. For example, some operate in accordance with the principles of the circular economy and manufacture innovative materials from industrial waste, others provide furniture for hire. The various solution approaches are as creative as the industry itself – and there is still plenty of untapped potential .

Sustainable consumer behaviour today and in the future

More and more people are making purchase decisions with the environment in mind, and they are prepared to pay more for sustainable products. The Greta effect is only one of many factors influencing new consumer behaviours. Durability, health, innovation, social responsibility and Fairtrade are all increasingly coming into public focus.

Changing demand has presented the furnishing sector with new challenges. Many manufacturers and retailers are already responding by making their ranges more sustainable. However, there is still room for improvement. To remain successful in the long term, companies must focus more on the topic of sustainability – because a growing number of people are making purchase decisions on that basis.

You can discover at first hand how the furniture industry is harnessing the sustainability trend at imm cologne 2022 from 17 to 23 January. Buy your ticket now!