How sustainable business models are changing the furnishings industry
Given the limited availability of raw materials, waste is one of the greatest challenges of our time. While mass production may be economically viable, the subsequent costs for the environment and workers are not taken into consideration. At the same time, customers want more and more custom-made furnishings and furniture. One solution for this is on-demand production. Products such as tables and sideboards are made according to the customer’s preferences only after an order is placed.
This saves on resources and storage space for individual designs, effectively combats waste and allows varied working conditions. On the other hand, furniture fans can expect higher costs, more complex ordering processes and longer delivery times. This means a rethink in consumer behaviour, which is tangibly rewarded with an individual piece of furniture and the positive feeling of being environmentally conscious.
Sustainable start-ups like form.bar are pioneers in this field. The furniture can be individually planned online and is only produced when ordered. Production is handled by regional carpenters, who receive the necessary materials – FSC certified of course – and know-how from the team. At the same time, the company is fulfilling the social aspects of sustainability.
The graph above breaks down customer loyalty through emotionalisation in different age groups surveyed. Sustainable companies can benefit from the resulting increase in customer loyalty. (Infographic: imm cologne, Icons made by Victoruler from www.flaticon.com)
Flexible furniture for the future
In many major Asian cities, urbanisation has led to small apartments and flexible-use spaces. This trend will continue here as well: flexible furniture and modular living systems bundle a multitude of application options in one product. Whether sofa modules, adjustable tables or convertible shelving units, such solutions save space and raw materials. A modular couch that grows with the family simply lasts longer, which makes it better for the environment. In addition, a single product line appeals to a larger target group.
The Cologne-based start-up Variand successfully completed its crowdfunding campaign for a new shelving system in late summer 2021. Wall-mounted rails provide the basic framework for various modules based on the desired use – whether shelves, clothes hooks or light strips. The elegant minimalist design offers storage space for the kitchen, hallway or living room and playful freedom in putting it all together.
Raw material recycling and circular economy
DIY and recycling in the furnishings industry are nothing new. However, young start-ups are getting better at maximising the possibilities and investing in the circular economy ‒ the champion of recycling. The aim is to avoid introducing new raw materials into the production process and facilitate the unlimited reuse of materials.
WYE , the sustainable company from Bavaria, has developed its own material derived from wood industry waste. The benches, sideboards and chairs made from Neolign are returned to the company after use and recycled into new products. The brand wants to use this invention to counter the trend towards “fast furniture,” which has earned it the German Sustainability Award 2021. The Dutch design studio SMELT also sources its raw materials exclusively from plastic waste, which is then pressed to create modern terrazzo furniture .
The sustainable company WYE makes furniture like the |chamfer| dining table from a recycled material produced from wood industry waste. (Photo: WYE)
CO2 negative furniture
Today, carbon offsetting is a business in its own right. Companies and private individuals can help fund climate projects as a way to offset their carbon footprint. Even more effective, however, are CO2-negative products, which absorb more carbon dioxide than they produce in the manufacturing process.
The company Made of Air has developed a material called biochar based on this concept. Biomass waste is used to create the substance, which permanently binds the CO2 stored inside in a stable form. This new material can be used for a variety of purposes and is a climate-friendly alternative to many plastics. From tables and dressers to kitchen utensils and decorative items, biochar is also suitable as a flexible material for the furnishings industry. Even architects and builders can use the CO2-negative composite for building facades or as a construction material.
Sustainable business models as the new standard
The global challenges of the climate crisis mean there is no alternative – consumption and production behaviour have to change. While big companies are slowly transforming their structures, many start-ups already have sustainability built into their DNA. Environmental compatibility and social fairness are not simply confined to parts of a product, but also often extend to the entire production process right from the very beginning. Established brands can learn from these principles and take a cue from the success stories of young brands .
After digitalisation, the shift to sustainable business models is the second major transformation of our time. Read about what is driving and inspiring the industry .