Storytelling you can touch
8 October 2021 Blog
Interior architects and designers tell stories in space. When they use sustainably sourced wood and wooden furniture, those stories take on new meaning.
Interior architects and designers are key decision-makers with the potential to drive both consumption and trends in the furniture industry. They do that by deciding which materials and products to source, how to incorporate them into designed spaces, and how to invite customers and homeowners to interact with them. With this influence on the market, comes a tremendous impact on the environment.
Building sustainability into blueprints is one way for interior architects and designers to ensure that the work that they do also protects the long-term health of our forests. PEFC seeks to engage with interior architects and designers to help them do just that, and to raise awareness for responsible sourcing of wooden furniture.
Sustainable, by design
PEFC chose “Forests are Home” as the name for our ambitious awareness campaign for sustainable wooden furniture. In doing so, we also chose to center the emotional role that furniture plays in our lives and in the designed space of our homes. Furniture is a product that we can often take for granted, but our relationship with it is fundamentally intimate—tactile and comforting. Furniture is always there, in the background.
“Forests are Home” connects the forest that our wooden furniture comes from to the homes that it ends up in. Interior architects and designers do something similar when they choose what wood to use, and where to source it from. They understand that sustainability is not incidental to design, and that choosing sustainable materials and products is about more than just meeting corporate and social responsibilities. Sustainability adds value and meaning to designed spaces.
Real environmental and social impact
This is more than just a feel-good story. Sourcing sustainably harvested wood, and buying sustainably-sourced wooden furniture, make a real difference.
Whether that wooden furniture comes from Scandinavian birch, Canadian oak, or from tropical hardwoods like teak, it can be grown and harvested sustainably. In markets all around the world, PEFC provides local mechanisms for forest owners of all sizes to adopt sustainable practices and achieve certification. PEFC certification is transparent and impartial, conducted by independent third-party certification. That means that when interior architects and designers choose PEFC certified materials or products, they can trust that the benefits are real.
Those benefits include the preservation of forest biodiversity, and of the tremendous CO2 capturing power of forests. The certification process also provides training and enhances safety for forest workers, unlocks market access for independent forest owners, and improves livelihoods and economic opportunity for the often-marginalized communities that live in and around forests.
These are the benefits of certification. They are also a part of the value that interior architects, designers and consumers get when they choose PEFC certified products.
A proven boost to firms
The term “eco design” entered our vocabulary in the mid 1990’s. Today, it is widely used to describe a practical approach that centers sustainability at all parts of the design process. Eco design not only has a positive impact on the environmental performance of small and medium sized firms who employ it, but it has economic benefits as well.
A 2020 study in the journal Forests examined the value that eco design principles bring to firms. If found benefits that ranged from reduced company costs, increased innovation in product development, measurable improvement in public image, and potential marketplace advantages.
To some extent, this is driven by consumers. A 2019 YouGov poll found that 87% of European consumers demanded deforestation-free products, and research from the Sustainable Furnishings Council from 2018 shows that a majority of respondents (nearly 60%) were willing to pay more for wooden furniture that was certified as environmentally safe. So when interior architects or designers recommend sustainable wooden furniture, they do so in-line with current consumer sentiment.
But this is not a one-way conversation. Interior architects and designers also have a significant voice in the supply chain, and among consumers. And by raising those voices, they can help protect forests.
The designer’s voice in the supply chain
Design decisions can have an impact on the entire supply chain. They determine the selection of raw materials to be used, the location of the suppliers of those materials, the life span of the product in question, and the ability to reuse/recycle/recover the wood within that product.
Any architect or interior designer that is serious about their work makes intentional choices about what kinds of wood or wooden products are right to meet a given set of client needs. These include not only practical considerations, like budget, but also aesthetic ones. A designer with an aesthetic preference to beechwood and beechwood products will tilt the supply chain in that direction. Just as a designer who has made the moral determination to use certified wooden products wherever possible can also tilt the supply chain towards sustainability.
In the world of furniture design, an estimated 90% of production costs can be determined by how a product is designed. Designers are involved at the earliest stages of product conceptualization, and at many firms they are among the primary decision makers when it comes to sourcing raw materials. Designers therefore play a critical role in encouraging the use of sustainable materials in the furniture industry
The designer’s voice among consumers
The work of interior architects and designers is not simply fee-for-service. A designer’s expertise and independent sense of taste are part of the value that they bring to their clients.
That means that designers are well-positioned to be key opinion leaders among consumers. Consumer preferences can be shaped both during one-on-one consultations, in the context for a business relationship, but also more informally online. Every social media platform, from Twitter to TikTok, has a booming subculture devoted to architecture and interior design. Designers are also becoming content creators in their own right, publishing everything from instagram reels to podcasts.
These are the conversations that matter. And for interior architects and designers that value sustainability, these are the places to discuss it.
Bringing it all together, with PEFC
Interior architects and designers have such a unique position in the supply chain—they have direct contact with everyone from consumers to manufacturers. That position means that interior architects and designers are able to spread awareness about the eco-design principles, and influence the market in that direction, like few others. And that’s why their participation is essential to the success of the “Forests are Home” campaign.
"We deal directly with the clients, when we do projects for our clients, we have the opportunity to influence their choices. Customers often accept costly environmentally friendly options such as geothermal, solar panels etc. because they are sensitive to climate change. However, it has never happened to me that a client asked for wood coming from sustainably managed forests. This is simply because they are not sufficiently informed and aware” – Rodolph Wetzel, Interior Architect,Geneva.
Undoubtedly, Interior Architects or Designer have an important role to play. This is why PEFC is calling for your help to raise awareness on the importance of using certified wood to produce wooden furniture.
Join us in a discussion to help build a lasting impactful message to supply chain companies and consumers.