By Jonathan L. Gelbard, Ph.D.
3p recently spoke to Oscar Valdemoros, Managing Director of the Spanish company, Industrias Tobia, and the CEO of its North American subsidiary, Spaldin Sleep Systems about what makes these products sustainable.
The slogan of Spaldin’s new line of mattresses, now available in Sleepy’s stores and at Sleepy’s.com is European Designed Luxury, Inspired by Nature.
The materials used in Spaldin mattresses have been certified as Oeko-tex 100 Class I: to contain no harmful chemicals and be safe enough “for babies.” We wanted to find out what that means for the materials and processes they use to produce these mattresses.
While his native tongue is Spanish, Valdemoros answered my questions in English far better than I’d be able to answer his the other way around.
3p: How did you become interested in working for a company that makes safe, healthy, chemical-free sleep systems? For example, was it concern for the health impacts of chemicals? Concern for environmental impacts of harmful chemicals such as flame retardants, which have a history of use by furniture-makers?
OV: Spaldin is more than a company for me. This company was started by my grandfather more than 50 years ago and since I was born it has been part of my life. I only joined the company in 2004, when our partner, Metzeler, started to introduce in Europe the new eco-friendly foams. I immediately saw the fit between the two companies, with very similar business conceptions of innovation and care for what we do. We both aim to make products as if they would be used by us, by our families, and therefore would be human and ecologically respectful. It is something that goes in the philosophy of our company, of our family, not anything that we looked to do for any strategic or commercial reason. We do not sell mattresses, we sell sleep experiences.
3p: It’s refreshing to hear that kind of family company-based tradition and personal values reflected in your products. Tell us about the new line of Spaldin mattresses. What is remarkable about them?
OV: We care about what we do and that is why we do not only look to save dollars in the materials we use to make our products. We strongly believe in people and that is why we partner with the best companies to source our materials, which are bought based on features, not on price. The result is a premium line of mattresses with the most strict certifications of being healthy and safe from harmful chemicals (Oeko-tex 100, Class I – “safe for babies and small children”), and with the most innovative technology to serve the comfort and well-being of our customers.
The inspiration for Tubes came from appreciation of biomimicry. As a bee, one of the best engineers in Nature, uses natural resources to make the honey comb – one of the most extraordinary designs created by any creature – our best German engineers designed Tubes. Using green materials and a unique hive-like design, they created a perfect structure that supports and gives the best breathability features of all mattresses.
3p: That’s quite a claim, and it sounds exciting. But helping lead the advance toward a more sustainable furniture marketplace can’t be easy. Tell us a little bit about the challenges you’ve faced. What’s been easy? What’s not come as easily?
OV: The challenges we have to face deal mainly in communication and moving people to understand and believe in what we do, so they do not see this as just a niche market. The main challenge is therefore to reach this vast audience of consumers who state that they would buy green products so long as they do not have to pay more for them. This requires communication and of course a big effort in our side to design products that meet the criteria even though we pay more money, as I said, for the raw materials. We want people to see that our products are great products for all kinds of people, and that they have been conceived in a way that offers them a luxurious sleep experience, plus contributes to a better world for our children and the children of our children.
3p: Tell us a little bit about the sustainability of Spaldin’s everyday operations. For example, what green products and practices do you use in your facilities and offices, or even your shipping? What business benefits have you realized by using them?
OV: It would be difficult to sort out all our daily operations in terms of the sustainability, since as I said this is something I think each one of the persons that belongs to this company and particularly the management team have inside (their values). They range from the use of recycled paper to the use of recycled iron and PEFC-certified wood for making our beds, to the energy-efficient machinery we employ, to the payment to specialized companies to recycle our waste plastic, cardboard and foam that we separate into special containers at our facilities.
3p: What’s your vision for the future sustainability of the furniture business in general – for how it can contribute to society’s greater efforts to protect the health of both people and the ecosystems that sustain our well-being?
OV: I think this is a trend nobody can stop. More and more people are aware that we have to take care of the natural heritage we have received if we want our children and the children of our children enjoy of it. This trend, with the help of smart policies and investments by governments, is seriously pushing us towards a sustainable economy. I hope that in a few years, being sustainable will mean nothing special, but will just be the normal practices in our daily and business lives. This is what we have to push forward and hopefully we at Spaldin are doing our small part towards that dreamed goal.
3p: Thanks so much, Oscar, for sharing your inspiration and experience in the sustainable furniture business with our readers.
How to Try One: You can find Spaldin mattresses in Sleepy’s Stores throughout the northeast and Midwestern U.S. You can also purchase them online at Sleepys.com.
Upcoming Events: Bay Area readers can visit Spaldin’s booth at Green Festival in San Francisco on November 6-7, 2010 to try a mattress and receive a special coupon.
Jonathan L. Gelbard, Ph.D., Principal at Conservation Value, Inc., is a rare combination of conservation scientist, sustainability expert and communication specialist. He is a remarkable researcher, writer, speaker and problem-solver who excels at serving as a bridge applying the science underlying sustainability to develop cutting-edge solutions. He is currently serving as a sustainability consultant for Spaldin.