A New Horizon for Sustainable Furniture in Southeast Asia

A new apartment in Singapore furnished with flooring made from renewable rubberwood. A modernist university atria fitted with wooden panels sourced from regenerative tropical rainforests. Stylish, modular cabinets that not only save space in your kitchen and bedrooms, but also help to save forests in Southeast Asia too.

A New Horizon for Sustainable Furniture in Southeast Asia

7 November 2022 Blog

A new apartment in Singapore furnished with flooring made from renewable rubberwood. A modernist university atria fitted with wooden panels sourced from regenerative tropical rainforests. Stylish, modular cabinets that not only save space in your kitchen and bedrooms, but also help to save forests in Southeast Asia too.

This is what sustainable furniture in Southeast Asia looks like. For many years, PEFC has been actively working towards establishing a foundation for sustainability throughout the furniture supply chain in Southeast Asia. In 2021 we achieved a major breakthrough in this commitment, announcing a partnership with the ASEAN Furniture Industries Council (AFIC), the influential regional trade association for the furniture industry in Southeast Asia.

Collaborating with furniture industry associations, such as AFIC, is a key mechanism for PEFC to build a platform for the widespread adoption of sustainable practices within the furniture supply chain in Southeast Asia and abroad. Just a few of the key initiatives that AFIC and PEFC have collaborated on over the past year include.

  1. PEFC and AFIC conducted a survey to understand the current state of awareness of supply chain sustainability amongst furniture companies within Southeast Asia, and the willingness to adopt sustainable practices in the future. 
  2. AFIC invited PEFC representatives to share their expertise and insights into sustainability, forest certification and sustainable practices in the furniture supply chain at the ASEAN International Furniture and Furnishings Show in March 2021.
  3. PEFC conducted chain of custody certification training sessions for the furniture industry including AFIC members in December 2021. In addition, AFIC members were also given access to the PEFC e-learning platform, ‘PEFC-essentials’, to learn about certification in more detail.
  4. PEFC connected AFIC with PEFC members in the ASEAN region.

This is just the beginning of our work together. Over the next year, PEFC and AFIC plan to expand the awareness of furniture industry sustainability in Southeast Asia and address the challenges of furniture companies in obtaining sustainability certification. Together we are working towards furniture supply chain sustainability in Southeast Asia, and that’s good news for tropical forests in the ASEAN region

Who is AFIC?

AFIC comprises eight independent national furniture trade associations in the ASEAN region. These national associations represent thousands of furniture companies, from designers to manufacturers, all striving to be more sustainable in their practices. AFIC was established in 1987 in order to represent the shared interests of national furniture organisations within Southeast Asia and its local members, and to help furniture companies across the region to raise the bar and achieve together.

PEFC is also represented by national members around the globe. These national members work within local legal and cultural frameworks to advance sustainability certification for forest management and chains of custody. With similar structures and a shared vision of a sustainable and resilient furniture supply chain in Southeast Asia, it made perfect sense to collaborate with AFIC and share the tools and resources at our disposal with AFIC members and prospective members in order to promote sustainable practices within the furniture industry in the ASEAN region at large.

Next steps for the furniture supply chain in Southeast Asia

As mentioned previously, PEFC and AFIC conducted a survey in 2021 of association members to understand the challenges they face in obtaining and maintaining PEFC certification. The results from this survey will be used to inform the scope and parameters of our cooperation together in 2022. Some of the key needs and requirements of furniture companies within ASEAN include:

  1. Helping companies build wood sourcing policies. Supply chains in the furniture industry are complex, with a range of sources that are certified and not. We will work with companies across the region to help build robust wood sourcing policies.
  2. Fostering connections with PEFC-certified companies in the region. Networks are fundamental to ensuring the uptake of certification, and the procurement of certified forest materials. Together, PEFC and AFIC will foster a learning journey for companies to build those networks, and to connect with suppliers and producers in the region that have already achieved certification.
  3. Writing and publishing case studies. Many furniture companies in the region have no in-house communications department, and little presence on social media. We will help get their message with case studies that can serve as a guide for other companies seeking to become more sustainable.
  4. Integrated tools for business matching. By linking AFIC’s business matching tool to the PEFC search database, we can make it easier for buyers to identify certified suppliers. 
  5. Awareness campaign. In order to communicate about the partnership and raise awareness about AFIC’s commitment to sustainability, PEFC and AFIC will launch a 6-month social media campaign in July. As with the case studies, this campaign will also provide communications resources to AFIC members, and give them a platform to tell their sustainability stories.
  6. Speaking engagements. AFIC will also invite PEFC to speak at seminars (physical or online). Such sessions will address the region’s current market climate from different perspectives, including sustainability. PEFC will be presenting their contributions to sustainability in the ASEAN region and highlighting local success stories.

Setting a benchmark for sustainability

As an organisation proudly founded by smallholders for smallholders, PEFC will continue to work with small forest owners, small-to-medium sized producers, manufacturers and associations and national bodies to expand sustainable forest management certification and bring sustainability to the furniture supply chain in Southeast Asia. 

In September, AFIC members attended a webinar that explored the vital role that wooden furniture could play in the fight against climate change, and how PEFC is helping to facilitate the shift towards sustainable sourcing of timber in the furniture supply chain. We were also delighted to hear that AFIC members expressed their interest in participating in a carbon project piloted by PEFC in 2023, which helps to guide companies on how to calculate carbon stored in a wooden furniture product and how companies can communicate this information as a part of their sustainability reporting requirements (for example, ESG reporting requirements).

In addition to the activities above, PEFC members and representatives in Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Laos are already scheduled to host training sessions on sustainable forest management and chain of custody certifications, in local languages, for national AFIC members.

 We have the tools to protect forests and vulnerable species, combat climate change, improve the quality of air soil and water resources and empower the communities that live within and make a living from forests, but we can’t do it alone. We can achieve all of these things - and so much more - through cooperation and robust partnerships in the furniture supply chain.

 Whether you are a manufacturer in Indonesia, a designer in Singapore or a contract manufacturer in Thailand, this collaboration between AFIC and PEFC means new training and communications resources for you. Join the ‘Forests Are Home’ campaign and reach out to us directly at furniture@pefc.org to find out about the next webinar or training session scheduled for your country. Share your story with us and allow us to highlight your company in our social media campaign, or case studies.

 Together, we can all raise the bar for the furniture industry in the ASEAN region. The future of our companies, our markets, and our forests depends on it. 

The fight doesn't stop here

Every single person on earth will bear the cost of climate change, and the furniture industry can and must play a sustained leading role for the future of our forests and our planet. PEFC is embarking upon a new mission in 2023 to help companies like yours to calculate the carbon storage in wood products and prove this to their customers and stakeholders. 

If you’re interested in demonstrating your commitment to reducing carbon in the atmosphere and fighting climate change, find out more here: https://forms.gle/XUAQTdeN2UZeriif6





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