We’re a furniture brand trying to be sustainable; we manufacture our own product, which means we have a measurable and immeasurable impact on the environment, constantly walking the line between sustainability, commerciality and longevity. It’s difficult, but everything worth doing has its challenges. So, we thought we’d get our co-founder, Keiran Hewkin, to sit down and share the challenges faced with sustainability in the interiors industry. Below, he not only shares our challenges and the actions we’re taking right now to be more sustainable, but also what we’re planning to do in the future.
Let me be clear: The world is not doing enough. We as a species are not doing enough, and by default, what we as a company are doing is not yet enough to tackle the climate crisis. Our recent launch with Ecologi is an attempt to help us mitigate our impact while we fix the wider issues within the industry and our processes that the industry shares. Yes, carbon offsetting is a temporary solution. There is a huge amount of work to do across our supply chain, product design, end of life plans and factory setup to get this right. Here is a snapshot of some of our plans and things we already do.
We use responsibly sourced wood across all of our products and ensure that our packaging is 100% recyclable. It’s one thing using recyclable cardboard, but if the packaging is closed with staples then they would need to be removed prior to recycling. So, it’s about putting the effort in upfront to design with end of life in mind. That’s what we’ve achieved with our packaging; there’s no glue or staples, just cardboard and biodegradable plastics.
When it comes to material waste, we try to minimise this as much as possible. Any foam waste is crumbled and used as cushion filling for the Model 04 back cushions. Any cork waste is turned into energy to run the cork supplier’s factory. With each new product we develop, we try to make it easier to recycle items when it’s at the end of its life. Model 06, for example, will launch next year and we’ve come up with some ingenious manufacturing techniques that allow it to be stripped back at the end of its life for recycling purposes. We will look to use this innovation on our historic product lines too, and take the cutting edge learning we have today, and back date it to our older models.
We are always looking to use alternative materials like Hemp or natural fibre fabrics, which, in theory, are more sustainable. However, they are not available at scale, so we are working on sustainable and scalable technologies with our partners to ensure we can deliver sustainability now and in the future. We have to strike a balance where we can supply a consistent product, at a consistent quality, and with the most sustainable materials available. It’s a balance between those three things: longevity, consistency and availability.
Having said this, we can’t just use a material because on paper it’s more sustainable; a more sustainable material might not last 15- 20 years of heavy use. Yes, we would have ticked a box to say we’ve used a sustainable material, but if the product doesn’t last the test of time then we create a false economy. It’s a fine balance. Think about the effort that goes into creating a sofa: water usage, Co2 emissions from the factory, the labour and time that goes into making it, transportation of goods, etc. All of that goes to the wayside if the materials used don’t last longer than a couple years. So, we look at the total product life cycle and end of life to strike the best balance we can with the information we have available today. The best way to limit the impact of a product is make sure it lasts as long as possible and fast furniture becomes a thing of the past. How many Lack tables have you got through in the past…?
We’ve also teamed up with Ecologi to launch our carbon offsetting scheme. We’re excited to launch this initiative as it helps fund carbon reduction projects globally. However, we’re very aware the carbon offsetting initiative is a short term implementation to cover us while we continue to implement more long term sustainability solutions.
The carbon offsetting scheme gives us the time to address the challenges within our supply chain and our processes. Supply chains for greener materials have to be more established at scale, they need to be consistent. We also need our supply chain to be clean by eliminating all plastic use – we are working with our suppliers at the moment on this.
In short: we, as an industry, need to fix all the underlying issues inherent within the supply chain. It’s an industry-wide problem. But, until there’s a solution, we’re going to offset our products by 100%.
Our factory is now lit, in part, by 200 solar tubes, directing the sun's light and dispersing it across our factory floor. As a result, this reduces our electricity consumption and improving our workspace environment.
As a business we need to innovate; we’re geared up to launch great upholstery products, so the best thing we can do is launch the most sustainable and innovative version of those products. And learn how to get better, faster, cleaner and more sustainable each time. We can then focus on what’s within our control by implementing those learnings across our entire product offering, ensuring sustainability and longevity is the first lens we look through when we approach a product.
It’s not about reinventing the wheel, but about ensuring within our area of expertise, we’re doing the very best job we can. We need to operate and deliver our craft in the most sustainable way, that’s how we will do the most good. If we take care of that then we will go a long way to limiting our impact.