Deciding on the right office furniture for your workspace can be a complex process. There’s so much to consider, from the type of furniture you need to comfort, aesthetics, and of course, budget.
But as more companies look to embed environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) practices into their business, the eco-credentials of office furniture items has become another important consideration for organisations when fitting out their workspaces.
But why should sustainability be a priority when choosing office furniture? As we explore in this blog post, the benefits for your business go beyond just being kinder to the environment.
1. Reduce your environmental impact
Sustainable office furniture offers many environmental benefits. Items made from sustainable materials have a much longer lifecycle, meaning they won’t end up in landfill within a couple of years.
Buying items made with recycled materials or second-hand items reduces your overall carbon footprint.
And items free from volatile organic compounds (VOCs) means no harmful gases are released into the air, polluting the atmosphere.
2. Save money
Buying sustainable office furniture may seem more expensive upfront, but is actually a far more economical choice in the long-run.
A cheap chair may cost less than a quality one, but you may need to purchase 3 or 4 of those items over a 10 year period. Buy a more sustainable option, and you’ll only need to buy it once.
Ultimately, sustainable furniture pays for itself over the course of its lifecycle.
3. Boost your brand image
Thinking and acting on ESG in a proactive way has become more pressing for organisations today. We know that ESG can drive consumer preference, with a whole body of research suggesting that customers are willing to pay more to “go green”.
But your ESG proposition needs to extend beyond your products. It should be part of everything your company does. Kitting out your workplace with sustainable office furniture shows that your company cares about the environment - and this could help to boost your image and bring in more revenue.
A growing number of organisations are looking to pursue green certifications, such as BREEAM, LEED and SKA, for their office buildings in order to create a more sustainable workplace. Achieving one of these certifications sends a clear message to the world, including your customers, employees and stakeholders, that your company takes sustainability seriously.
4. Improve workers’ health and wellbeing
When you choose sustainable office furniture made with minimal amounts of chemicals, you'll get less harmful pollutants, like VOCs, released into the air. VOCs can have a detrimental impact on workers’ health, causing symptoms such as headaches, fatigue and nausea. Formaldehyde is one particularly concerning VOC that has been linked to cancer. It is often found in adhesives and paints used during the manufacturing process.
The reality is, furniture items that are bad for the environment are usually bad for humans too. So by choosing sustainable office furniture you serve your people as well as the environment. One study found that:
“Indoor environmental quality parameters in an office, such as low total VOCs, high ventilation and low carbon dioxide all lead to better cognitive performance.”
By making sustainable choices when buying office furniture, you can enhance the experience of workers, boost productivity and improve the quality of their lives - all while reducing demand on the environment.
5. Attract and retain the best talent
Workers today are concerned about environmental issues such as climate change. And they want to work for companies that share their values.
In a survey of more than 2,000 UK office workers:
- 65% said that they were more likely to work for a company with a strong environmental policy
- 64% said they would definitely or possibly turn down a job offer from a company with a bad environmental record
Choosing sustainable office furniture sends a clear message to your employees - and potential employees - that you care about the environment. By joining your company, they’ll feel part of a bigger purpose.
Tips for buying sustainable office furniture
Most products today, whatever you’re buying, attempt to promote their ‘sustainable’ and ‘eco-friendly’ credentials in order to boost sales. But sometimes it can be difficult to know exactly what you’re buying, and just how ‘sustainable’ that product really is.
When evaluating office furniture options, we recommend looking for products:
Made from recycled materials
Second hand or repurposed
That can be more effectively maintained (e.g. cleaned, replaced with spare parts, reupholstered) to extend the lifespan of the product
With minimal packaging waste or packaging made from recycled materials
Supported by schemes to offset their carbon footprint (e.g. tree planting)
Some products also come with certifications or labels that make it easy for you to assess how environmentally friendly they are:
Cradle to Cradle Certified™ - a globally recognised measure of safer, more sustainable products made for the circular economy.
Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) - an independently verified and registered document that communicates transparent information about the life-cycle environmental impact of the product.
SCS Indoor Advantage™ - an indoor air quality (IAQ) standard for furniture and building materials that certifies interior products for low VOC emissions.
Sustainable office furniture comes with a multitude of benefits, all of which have a positive impact on an organisation. A furniture or workplace consultancy can help you to identify the best sustainable products for your space and budget.