The American Home Furnishings Alliance believes the home furnishings industry has a responsibility to help manage our world’s natural resources for future generations. Over the past decade, the Alliance has developed a series of three furniture industry-specific environmental programs designed to help member companies implement sustainable business practices consistent with that responsibility.
In 2010, AHFA organized all three programs under the umbrella of Eco3Home. The trademarked label may be used on products from companies that have successfully implemented all three programs.
AHFA companies begin the Eco3Home journey with an environmental management program called EFEC that is implemented at the facility level. EFEC, or “Enhancing Furniture’s Environmental Culture,” requires a company to analyze and better understand the environmental impact of raw materials, core operations and finished products. This results in:
- Improved management of resources and raw materials;
- Reduced energy and water consumption;
- Reduced waste; and,
- Increased recycling.
EFEC sets the course for a company’s environmental journey, because it works to change the culture within a company, from the factory floor to the executive suite. Employees drive the changes – and the results achieved in facilities across the United States have been profound.
This comprehensive environmental management program – which calls on participants to make continual improvements and undergo an annual maintenance audit to retain their registration – has been implemented by 14 companies in 79 different facilities, including one facility in Mexico.
Once a company has implemented EFEC at all domestic facilities, it is eligible to enter the Sustainable by Design program. Companies are not obligated to take this additional step, but many EFEC companies have elected to advance their environmental commitment by completing Sustainable by Design.
For most companies, furniture production today involves relationships with overseas vendors and overseas factories. Sustainable by Design takes EFEC’s culture of environmental stewardship and extends it throughout a company’s global supply chain. Sustainable by Design companies must establish internal standards and practices to govern their own environmental performance, but they also must work to ensure their suppliers do the same. The program provides guidelines for maintaining credible documentation of raw materials from these suppliers, thereby facilitating compliance with federal regulations such as the Lacey Act and the “Conflict Minerals” section of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial law.
Sustainable by Design also requires participants to develop policies that define the company’s commitment to social responsibility. A Responsible Sourcing Manual, introduced in January 2012, helps companies meet this requirement by providing steps for establishing a comprehensive social compliance program.
Finally, Sustainable by Design provides tools to help companies calculate a baseline carbon footprint, so they can begin to measure the impact of their improvements. As of January 2014, American Drew/Lea Industries, C.R. Laine, Century, Ethan Allen, Flexsteel, Hickory Chair, Kincaid, and La-Z-Boy Residential had achieved Sustainable by Design registration.
PRODUCT DESIGN AND DEVELOPMENT
The last mile of the Eco3Home journey offers manufacturers the opportunity to provide consumers with safety, health and environmental information on individual pieces or collections of furniture. By providing this information and paying a licensing fee, the manufacturer is entitled to use the Eco3Home label and hangtag. AHFA created a standardized format for reporting these product details to make it easier for consumers to evaluate new home furnishings and make informed purchase decisions.
The Eco3Home label identifies products that carry a safety, health and environmental promise from the manufacturer. Those promises include:
Safety: Eco3Home products meet or exceed federal safety standards, as well as voluntary standards established by the industry as “best practices.”
Health: Eco3Home products meet or exceed federal standards regulating the emission of unhealthy chemicals, such as formaldehyde, as well as the presence of unhealthy substances, such as lead.
Environment: All Eco3Home products are made by companies that are engaged in ongoing efforts to conserve water and energy, reduce waste and increase recycling. They have taken specific measures to “green” their supply chain and are using raw materials and construction techniques designed to have minimal impact on the environment.