CEO Jesús Linares discusses the rigors of achieving Cradle-to-Cradle certification, and venturing further into reuse and upcycling for the goal of 100% circularity by 2025.
The developed world’s ongoing need for quick furnishing solutions has only worsened an industry waste problem, sending as much as nine million pounds of furniture annually to the landfill.
The solutions to this problem may sound familiar: Using less and repurposing more of what’s already on the market. This two-pronged approach largely echoes what Spanish furniture maker Andreu World has been working on for the last couple of decades, building up to the announcement earlier this year that the 65-year-old company is now the first in the industry to be 100 percent Cradle to Cradle (C2C)-certified across its entire product line.
As a high-end brand responsible for furnishing offices for several of the tech world’s biggest players (Uber’s and YouTube’s San Francisco headquarters, Google’s Hyderabad, India office and certain Amazon outposts, just to name a few), achieving Cradle to Cradle certification is a distinguishing calling card as companies grapple with hybrid work models and the need to reduce their own footprints wherever possible.
“Being inspired by the original C2C book, (this milestone) is an amazing feat,” Andreu World CEO Jesús Llinares told Sustainable Brands™.
Unique circularity challenges for furniture
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Llinares notes that Andreu World regularly works with more than 100 suppliers; so, in order to earn the C2C certification, the company had to ensure all of its partners were also meeting those standards (a process that began in 2004) — specifically, making sure the final products were free of a range of restricted substances.
As in other industries, the raw materials themselves also require a certain set of standards. Andreu World is also the first furniture company to achieve 100 percent Forest Stewardship Council sourcing across its entire product range, mainly by sourcing wood from the company’s own European forests.
“We monitor every step of the process to ensure that our sustainability principles are enforced in every step,” Llinares says, “from controlled logging to the arrival of the logs at the sawmill, and the planks that are sent to the factories to transform them into components.”
Keeping furniture in the world, longer
Circular models for furniture are difficult to implement, given the sheer size of most of the products — it’s much easier to transport and recirculate last season’s clothing than a large dining table. Still, a handful of companies — including IKEA — are experimenting with buyback or resale programs; and third-party resale platforms such as Chairish source and aggregate used pieces from the general public. Llinares understands this challenge and says resale and restoration are key components of the company’s internal roadmap to incorporating circularity throughout the company.
“We are putting together centers (with existing centers in Europe, Japan, the United States and Canada) to provide support in handling these repair or recycling needs to make sure that through a product’s entire life cycle, it serves a purpose in sustainability,” he says.
For furniture that can’t be resold, the brand is also developing a streamlined process to disassemble and reincorporate furniture parts into new pieces and recycling/upcycling what can’t be reused.
Detailing the final footprint
In a move not often seen in the furniture industry, Andreu World worked with SGS to calculate the actual carbon footprint of several of its most popular products — highlighting stark differences between the impact of a conference table compared to a single dining chair, for example.
“We’re working year by year to improve with a plan to achieve zero waste soon by measuring each of our individual outputs,” Llinares says.
He hopes all of these efforts will keep the company ahead of the market as employers look to reduce the impact of their physical offices, whether that be through renewed furniture or other means.
“Timeless design and quality are the two main tools we have,” he says. “Combining that with a plan to reupholster and re-utilize, it’s clear our vision for the future is generating less virgin product; and the market will ask for that more and more.”