How to make eco-effective cost-efficient

In the 10 years that I have been active in the international contract furniture industry, I have seen many positive developments. The increase in use of technology and the increase in costs of real estate have pushed smart furnishing solutions to a new level. Unnecessary cost has been taken out of furniture. At the same time, companies buying and selling furniture have become much more aware of their impact on the environment. The increased attention for Corporate Social Responsibility has led to many efforts being undertaken to reduce carbon footprint and to generally be more aware of people, planet and profit. Customers’ demands for products which either have a high percentage of recycled content or even have cradle-to-cradle certification is on the rise. The requested degree of transparency of internal processes at suppliers is reaching new heights every day. Furniture companies do their best to show that CSR is in their blood – and they are stepping up their efforts to make their internal processes even more environmentally efficient.

But, surprise, surprise, I have seen less positive developments as well. Increasingly, furniture is being treated as a commodity while, at the same time, the competitive bids/RFPs/tenders have become more elaborate, specific and demanding. It is customary that customers specifically exclude their own responsibility for the process by making it very explicit that they will not accept any charges for the efforts the bidders will have to undertake. And I have seen companies requesting five different mock-ups at the same time on different continents from more than 5 suppliers. How do you justify the waste of such a demand and, to make it even worse, not pay for it?

Quite contradictory if you ask me. And the reason is clear: the connection between the internal processes of the end-customer and its suppliers is missing. The commendable attention for CSR has not reached the business-to-business processes of buying and selling to the end-customer yet. CSR has not permeated the entire value chain.

This is the next step in CSR, which will lead to large cost savings as well. Because it will require a critical examination of these processes, the responsibilities and the costs involved. This is the way to combine eco-effectiveness with money-efficiency.

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