Sourcing responsibly is the best way to avoid wood from illegal and other controversial sources. Under the U.S. Lacey Act, companies can face criminal or civil penalties if they are caught trading in wood that has been illegally logged in the country of origin. For example, wood that is harvested illegally in Peru, made into furniture in China, and imported and sold in the U.S. exposes the U.S. importer and retailer to risk. Companies that exercise “due care” by assessing and mitigating risk limit their exposure under the Lacey Act – and the most effective way to do this is by implementing a responsible wood sourcing policy.
Positive Branding Opportunities
Research shows that consumers care about the environment and that they will pay a premium for products that align with their values. (See SFC survey results below in this section). Responsible wood sourcing thus offers furnishings businesses opportunities for growth and increased profits, story-telling and brand enhancement. Not only that, a robust wood sourcing policy reduces legal exposure.
Most furniture stores run a regular schedule of promotions. Eco-promotions can be a great addition, and can include focus on specific products, such as reclaimed or certified wood furniture, or events, such as continuing education presentations for local design professionals. In either case, your robust wood sourcing policy will be a talking point for sales staff.
Green Home Furnishings Consumer Study
That customers care about the environment in general, and forests in particular, is supported by research. Since 2009, the Sustainable Furnishings Council has conducted an annual Green Home Furnishings Consumer Study, to assess consumer awareness of, interest in and behavior on a variety of issues related to sustainable furnishings. The most recent study was conducted in September 2017 and was sponsored by Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, Hohenstein Institute, and Oeko-tex.
The survey sample is intentionally limited to the prime demographics for purchasing home furnishings, to ensure that the results are applicable to decisions made by companies that service this market: Male and female homeowners, age 30-60 with household incomes of $50,000 or more who have spent more than $500 on home furnishings in the past 12 months.
The research provides insight into the current perceptions of furnishings consumers on environmentally-sensitive topics and sustainable practices, including actions they report taking in response to their concerns. A key finding was that respondents state their willingness to pay up to 5-10% more for furnishings they consider eco-friendly (such as made from wood that is legally and responsibly harvested and toxics free)(57% for both).
In the 2017 survey, nearly all (97%) respondents state their concern about the environmental issues that were presented, with women expressing concern on more individual issues than men. Deforestation is the #2 concern identified, after toxic pollution. Eight in 10 respondents report heightened levels of concern about the environment in the wake of recent natural disasters.
Virtually all (98%) respondents (with a higher concentration among women) embrace environment-friendly habits and report that they take action as a result of their concern, including purchasing products they consider more environmentally friendly. When respondents hear a product described as eco-friendly, nearly three quarters (72%) have a positive reaction. Ninety percent say they are interested/very interested in buying environmentally safe home furnishings, and 87% say they are interested in buying wood furniture that is certified to be of wood coming from well-managed forests, provided of course, that style and cost considerations are comparable. Reclaimed wood (67%), recycled content (63%) and certified wood are among the most familiar eco-attributes in home furnishings.
There are several organizations that have expertise in supporting companies interested in developing and implementing responsible wood sourcing policies, including: