The Road to Sustainability Series – embracing new thinking

Embracing new thinking

If there was one key headline from COP 26, it would be the clarion call for industries to be bolder in balancing the “three p’s” of sustainable business: people, planet, and profit.

Sectors from fashion to fast-food have already faced their day of reckoning, ushering in structural changes to their operations.
But, despite highly publicised initiatives by some of the world’s biggest companies, science is warning change isn’t happening fast enough. The onus is on all businesses to shoulder their share of responsibility and look for solutions to often extremely challenging issues.

The challenges and opportunities for furniture manufacturers

Take a trip to any waste disposal site in the UK and the scale of the problem is clear. Over 1.5 million tonnes of bulky waste is sent to landfill each year, according to a WRAP survey. Furniture accounts for 42% of the pile compared to 19% from textiles.
A pre-Brexit poll by the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) points to similarly stark figures from across Europe. It reveals consumers typically buy 10.5 tonnes of furniture each year, while at the same time throwing out 10 million tonnes, with just a fraction being recycled.

Reducing waste is crucial. EEB says six million tonnes of CO2 could be saved if the furniture industry adopted circular economy principles based on recycling and reuse. And it wouldn’t just be good news for the planet, the report claims it would also create 157,000 jobs.

Adopting a new mindset

As well as encouraging consumers and businesses to recycle and repair rather than buying from new, exploring more sustainable manufacturing models is also necessary.
The government estimates 80-90% of the environmental impacts in the life cycle of furniture items is linked to the design and components of the products. This highlights the need to bake sustainability principles into product design from the outset.
But change is happening, and companies are stepping up.
“By their very nature, the design and furniture industries are extremely creative, with a natural tendency for exploring innovative ideas and perspectives,” says Marc Richard, Managing Director at Roger Lewis.

“The need to find sustainable solutions to systemic problems has been embraced as an exciting creative challenge. The industry is evolving at pace, bringing in some ground-breaking technologies and business models, which tackle the tough challenges of waste, product lifecycles, and cutting emissions.”

Roger Lewis’ sustainability journey

Roger Lewis is determined to be part of this changing landscape and has set its ambitions on becoming net carbon neutral by 2030.

“We view our sustainability transition as a journey,” says Marc. “We don’t pretend to have all the answers, but we’re certainly very committed to making it a cornerstone of our business.”

Roger Lewis has invested significantly in a number of key business areas, which we’ll be exploring in more detail over the coming weeks.

Key highlights include a new, state-of-the-art factory, enabling it to embed sustainable practices into its manufacturing processes. It has also launched an innovative apprentice programme to up-skill new talent.
As part of the ReLondon initiative and the Mayor of London’s Green New Deal fund, Roger Lewis was awarded a grant to pilot a new circular business model with a focus on reconditioning and longer-life cycle products.

Staying ahead of the curve

Richard explains: “We’ve been very busy behind the scenes, taking the time to understand our sustainability impacts and see where we can make improvements."

“Roger Lewis was founded in 1988 and has a long heritage, but our story has been about evolution. Our foundations were built working with trailblazers like Habitat and Heal’s, just as we’re now trusted partners to leading players in emerging sectors such as rent-to-buy premium serviced-apartments and mixed-use corporate spaces.

We have always developed and grown as a business, and I think it’s the same with sustainability. Not only is doing better for the planet and people part of our role as a responsible business, but it also brings fresh thinking and innovation to our way of thinking, which is really exciting.”

Over the coming weeks, this series will be exploring Roger Lewis’ sustainability journey, highlighting some of the challenges and key milestones.

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