Following the launch of the European Federation of Office Furniture’s new sustainability standard, the senior ergonomist at the Furniture Industry Research Association Levent Caglar has a few questions regarding its viability
Yet another sustainability scheme? At Orgatec, the FEMB launched its level certification programme as an umbrella for the various environmental and sustainability schemes from European countries. It has laudable aims of harmonisation, with simple common wording that users can understand, and saving producers the costs of obtaining different certification for each market. It also aims to cover both environmental and social sustainability.
Surely this has the capacity to improve access to all markets across Europe and contribute to improved sustainability. Certification by any accredited company will help achieve this if all countries have at least one, but will they? Striving to gain enough points to rise from level 1 to 2 or 3 could encourage companies to continue to improve, but not if end users want only level 1.
But will it add to confusion? European schemes, such as German Blue Angel, Nordic Swan and French NF Mark cover only parts of the sustainability spectrum so are not comparable with each other and are not used widely across Europe. They usually issue certification for a single product, rather than a range, and work out fairly expensive. The FEMB level certification must be considered to meet fully the requirements of current national schemes if it is to replace them gradually. Otherwise, it will be seen as yet another scheme, rather than an umbrella.
The FEMB level certification is modelled closely on the BIFMA level certification, and has used its ‘level’ name. It was even developed in conjunction with BIFMA. This appears to offer access to the USA markets through FEMB certification, but the devil is in the detail and only partial recognition is offered. The certification must be usable both ways if it is to be successful on both sides of the pond.
I wonder whether it has it been launched too soon. Manufacturers and potential certifiers will only come forward once they know how it will be implemented and what it might cost. At present, these details are not apparent.
And finally, has it been publicised in too low key a way to encourage end users to accept it? Until end users and specifiers are convinced of its merits and prepared to stipulate it as an alternative to existing national schemes, it will not take off. Instead it may just fizzle out. FEMB should not let an initiative like this fail, so it needs to use all of its influence to encourage end users and governments to specify it. Perhaps a good way to achieve the same aims would be to ensure that the European Commission’s Ecolabel, when it develops one for furniture, uses FEMB’s level certification as a basis.