Office Furniture and Sustainability: Steelcase Releases CSR Report


Steelcase, a global office furniture corporation, has released its latest Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) report. The report details the company’s efforts meet its goals of reducing its carbon footprint by 25 percent by 2012 (a coincidence that it’s Steelcase’s 100th anniversary?). If the report is accurate, consumers of Steelcase-produced furniture who are concerned about their purchases’ sustainability may be able to sit back and relax a little more easily.

So far this year, the company has implemented several initiatives designed to trim its greenhouse gas emissions and improves its sustainability. For example, Steelcase has changed the packaging of several of its products, ditching old anti-sustainability mantras like “one chair, one carton.” Instead, the company will utilize “Eco-Smart packaging”, which will involve minimal packaging (30 percent less for some items) or, in some cases, no packaging at all (the company will ship half the seating products manufactured at its Kentwood, Michigan plant without packing them). Using less packaging will have the added benefit of saving space on transportation vehicles, which will help Steelcase reduce its fuel usage and other transport-related harms.

Steelcase is also striving to improve the yield of trees it sources. Interesting factoid: trees harvested prior to maturity release more carbon dioxide into the environment. To address this problem, Steelcase is collaborating with Purdue University to reduce the trees’ growth cycle by ten years, which would allow the trees to mature and still be harvested within Steelcase’s requisite production time frame.

The company is also continuing its work with the Green Suppliers Network, an organization that, in cooperation with the EPA, “greens” suppliers. Currently, Steelcase is the leader of all Green Suppliers Network participants in regards to the number of organizations it has referred to the Network.

According to a May, 2009 ClimateBiz interview with Steelcase’s director of Global Environmental Sustainability, Angela Nahikian, the company has been, for most of its 100-year life, an innovator in sustainability practices in the industry. Nahikian described the key to Steelcase’s sustainability as its approach: Steelcase seeks to understand the chemistry and construction of its products from beginning to end, including products’ design, construction, and disposal or recycle. Nahikian described Steelcase’s eco-friendly vision as one of “radical evolution.”

Sarah Harper is a professional writer based in San Francisco, California. Her interests include sustainability, government policy, and international politics. In her free time, Sarah enjoys toying with the idea of holistic health, overanalysis, and plotting world exploration.

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