Back in 1991, researchers at IVL, the Swedish Environmental Research Institute, performed a study of how a sofa can affect the environment – from the manufacture of the various materials to when the couch becomes waste. The survey attracted a lot of attention- and there were many who did not have a clue how many chemical substances that were part of a sofa, where the ingredients came from, or how the sofa affected the environment.
Since then, the understanding of the interaction between furniture and the environment has increased considerably and the concept of sustainability has been given an expanded role for the furniture industry. “For us, the environment is an important issue and our subsidiary Ire Möbel have used design as a method to improve its sustainability,” says Sven Lindberg, who is Supply Chain Director for Lammhults Design Group. “The focus on eco-labeled products is a pillar of Ire’s business. It is a matter of both competitiveness and responsibility for our shared environment.”
Environmental requirements increase gradually
Swan-labeled furniture meets environmental requirements in a number of areas and requirements based on an assessment of the product life cycle. The requirements relate to the production, use and recycling. The emphasis is on the use of certified wood raw materials and recycled plastics and metal, and reducing the use of environmentally hazardous substances, durability and recyclability. For furniture and interiors Swan certification ensures that:
- Wood from sustainable sources is used in production.
- There is minimal impact on the environmental and minimal use of hazardous substances.
- Climate and energy impact decreases.
- The furniture is of high quality and usability.
In order to progress towards a sustainable society Ecolabelling Sweden AB, which is responsible for the Swan label, continuously sharpen their demands. In 2011, the Swan label tightened its requirements for furniture, which meant that registered companies must test their eco-labeled products against the new criteria and apply for a new license. The new requirements mean that the wood must come from certified forests, while at the same time the chemical requirements became more stringent. Among other things, the limit for formaldehyde was halved.
“In 2012, Ire launched its first Swan-labeled product which became the world’s first sofa that meets the new requirements. The sofa is called Rejoin and Ire’s development department learned that there is considerable work behind every eco-labeled product, “says Sven Lindberg. “Bringing in the environmental aspects at the design stage facilitates the whole process. The strong environmental engagement went far beyond expectations. To design products with less environmental impact, requires the designer to think differently, often requires more innovative thought and an awareness of the choice
It’s Emma Olbers who designed the Rejoin sofa. “I wanted to create a sofa with a homely and embracing feeling and then I think of my favorite cardigan, the one I inherited from grandpa, lovely in wool with patches of leather,” says Olbers.
The sofa consists of modules with dimensions of 90 × 90 cm which one connects. Thus one can easily rearrange the couch. The frame is made of solid varnished birch but is also available in black stain or black or white metal. The back and armrests are upholstered with 100 percent linen and vegetable tanned leather from Swedish Tärnsjö. The upholstery of the sofa can also be selected from approximately 100 fabrics in Ire’s collection, or the customer can send in his or her own fabric.
“It should be noted that all fabrics will not meet the requirements of the Nordic Ecolabel, but it is obviously important that the customer can get their wishes fulfilled as regards the choice of fabric,” says Sven Lindberg.
Part of the business strategy
Besides the Swan label and other prizes, the Rejoin sofa was appointed couch of the year 2013 by Elle Interior.
“Lammhults Design Group has a long tradition of responsible and sustainable design and production. Product quality and long service life is a prerequisite for sustainable consumption. We work with a vision for sustainable development with four overall goals, where one of the goals is to reduce the environmental impact of our products and services. The Rejoin couch is a concrete example of how we work,” concludes Lindberg.
This article was published in April 2014