Furnware is a leading New Zealand designer and manufacturer of school furniture, creating high quality, robust products with cutting edge design that lasts the test of time. With more than 60 years in the market, they have worked hand-in-hand with schools around the world, designing and creating furniture so children can thrive in the most inspiring learning spaces imaginable. Their aim is simple - to create spaces that fuel curiosity, ignite delight, and unleash imagination.
With world-leading classroom products the challenge was to ensure the company’s entire manufacturing process was environmentally sound and could be marketed as such. While an early adopter of ecolabelling, and certified for a number of products, the company had allowed their licence to lapse for a number of reasons.
Furnware Project Manager Bill Roberts says the company realised the consequences of this when exporting internationally. “We quickly learnt that environmental accreditation is an essential component from both a credibility and value-add proposition, and especially for our export market. It was simple really – for us to export and market our products to the customers we wanted to target, we needed an internationally recognised ecolabel partner.”
The company approached Eco Choice Aotearoa and started the process to renew its certification, achieving it in mid-2016.
To renew its Eco Choice Aotearoa certification, Furnware went back to basics, assessing every aspect of the manufacturing process from raw materials to cleaning products and overseas vendors. One of the biggest challenges the company faced in gaining certification was investigating right back to the source to ensure accurate information on the imported edge-banding used on the company’s tables and desks. Internal processes and daily-use patterns were also assessed, which was a very valuable exercise from Bill’s point of view. “We invested time on our energy management strategy to ensure compliance, from ensuring our light bulbs were energy-efficient, right down to changing the timers on the boilers to increase their efficiency, to provide cost-savings through reduced energy use”.
The company placed emphasis on ensuring products were recyclable and from sustainable sources. Made from polypropylene and high tensile steel, the products can all be separated into their component parts and recycled, with steel offcuts easily put to other uses. The furniture can be returned to them for recycling, though the company encourages people to try another tack first, says Bill. “Furnware furniture is such high quality that it’s often in perfect condition long after its 10- year guarantee has expired. We encourage people to reuse first rather than recycle, and donate it to community groups or their local charity shop so it can have another life in its original form. That’s a much more sustainable approach.”
Furnware acknowledges the many benefits that Eco Choice Aotearoa certification brings to their business as a whole. As an exporter, Furnware sought an independent and credible ecolabel programme that could gain Green Building Council points, while also being affiliated with the international Global Ecolabelling Network (GEN) programme.
With schools forming their largest market, Furnware saw ecolabel-compliant products as crucial for this environmentally savvy consumer base. “We can now comfortably assure schools that our products comply with environmental and health specifications. Being able to tell schools that our products won’t subject their students to toxic and unsustainable materials is essential for them, but also to us and in keeping with our company values.”
Bill says achieving Eco Choice Aotearoa certification nicely dovetails with the company’s ethos of “creating spaces to learn and grow” – and this can be applied not just to children in the classroom but also to Furnware’s employees. “Creating a healthy workplace where our staff are happy, feel empowered and are learning continuously is important to us as an employer. When working toward accreditation we needed to change over our cleaning solvents to a citrus-based environmentally conscious choice. That proved a much better solution for our staff who said the new products smelt better, didn’t sting their eyes and felt much healthier.”
Bill says Furnware is proud of its environmentally sound stable of products and feels honoured to supply schools with an essential element in ensuring children can not only learn and grow safely, but thrive in the most inspiring learning spaces imaginable.
Furnware is a leading designer and manufacturer of furniture products. Based in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand, they have additional offices in Australia and Singapore. Furnware’s ergonomic Bodyfurn school furniture is exported to countries all over the world, including to schools in Hong Kong, Singapore, the UK, China, the US, Australia, Canada, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Furnware’s mission is to make a difference for children and to help improve the world through education; the company aims to help every child grow, expand and be their best.