Make time for sustainability – before you don’t have a choice

Blum UK’s distribution manager, Neil Schofield, is urging the industry to set aside time to focus on building a comprehensive approach to sustainability – before it’s too late

I’m not one for sitting on a pedestal, nor preaching the gospel. However, sustainability is a topic that, if we’re not careful, could see many in the sector potentially lose out through a lack of transparent self-assessment when it comes to their green credentials.

This is my twentieth year in this incredible industry and I’ve worked in several areas from appliances to software, but mostly in furniture fittings – with half of that time at Blum. While technology has moved on tremendously, sustainability sits in the background, waiting to pounce on the uneducated and unprepared.

The demand for a sustainable approach to any business is becoming more than just a trend—it’s becoming a necessity, as expectations rise from consumers concerned about their environmental footprint.

Through Blum’s Architectural and Design division we are seeing more demands for proof of our Environmental and Social Governance (ESG) strategy. It is only a matter of time before the government legislates those retailers designing and installing furniture for consumers, to make sure they have full chain of custody for all the products installed, and are also audited over their carbon footprint.

Our industry is unregulated, and you don’t have to be qualified to design, plan or install kitchens. If, however, every retailer or manufacturer of furniture out there had to lawfully register their business with audited sustainable accreditation, then perhaps the positives would outweigh the negatives.

Consumers would have increased trust in an industry which, in part, was only a small step behind cowboy builders. An elevation in status for kitchen design and installation might make this a career path worth pursuing for future generations.

For now, retailers and manufacturers need to be thinking ahead to build trust and confidence with a comprehensive and transparent approach to sustainability. An excellent opportunity to not only meet consumer expectations, but to actually lead the charge in sustainable initiatives.

Making a difference

There are many ways which, on a local level, retailers can make a difference and get the positive messages out there to what could be a new environmentally conscious audience.

Highlight any certifications or adherence to industry standards that demonstrate a commitment to sustainability, such as Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification for wood products. You could share detailed information about your supply chain, highlighting efforts to ensure ethical sourcing and fair labour practices. Statements of accreditation regarding ISO standards of your suppliers should be made available to underline your own credentials and build trust with new consumers. Certifications provide third-party validation of your commitment to sustainability, giving customers confidence in your eco-friendly claims.

Perhaps implement a visible recycling program for replacement furniture along with recycling old appliances, instead of filling up the skip. Seek out local companies that could even pick-up from site.

Demonstrate the energy-efficiency of your showroom, using LED lighting, energy-efficient appliances, and smart technologies to highlight sustainable practices as and where you can. This not only reduces your environmental impact but also showcases your dedication to sustainability in a tangible and visible way, which could be part of your introduction to the business.

Implement simple practices to reduce packaging waste or collaborate with suppliers to optimise packaging solutions. Demonstrating a commitment to waste reduction aligns with consumer values and a proactive approach to minimising the environmental impact should always be seen as the right thing to do.

Nobody said that sustainability was easy, but by looking at your business from the outside and through new green spectacles, try implementing a few small initiatives and set yourself on a path of compliance before being forced to. There are multiple opportunities that will benefit your business through internal cooperation and external collaborations while you are on that journey, and the future may look that little bit brighter.

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