1 Deakin University, School of Management & Marketing, Faculty of Business & Law, 221 Burwood Highway, Burwood, Victoria 3125. www.deakin.edu.au Email email@example.com
2 Environmental Consultant, CPG Australia Pty Ltd, Level 2, 24 Albert Road South Melbourne, Victoria 3205. www.au.cpg-global.com Email firstname.lastname@example.org
3 Manager: People, Product, Planet, Livingedge, 345 Bridge Road, Richmond, Victoria 3122. www.livingedge.com.au Email email@example.com
Livingedge is an Australian owned furniture company that designs and supplies ‘high-end’ furniture pieces to its customers for both home and office settings. All the company sites are certified to ISO9001:2000, the Quality Management System. The company is simultaneously also committed to conserving the natural environment and hence primarily does business with manufacturers who believe and operate in eco-friendly methods too. The company promotes sustainable products through the LivingOn label. These labels detail information to customers on the furniture material content, Good Environmental Choice Accreditation (GECA) and whether the product is carbon offset. The company has implemented a number of procedures to identify, measure, set objectives, control & reduce (as required) the impact of its operations. The company has employed a full time person (‘Manager: Product, People, Planet’) to oversee the aspects related to ecological environment. This paper will report on Livingedge’s journey of implementing environmental initiatives.
Furniture company, Livingon, Stakeholders, Environmental impact, Suppliers, and Good Environmental Choice Accreditation.
Livingedge is an Australian owned furniture company that designs and supplies ‘high-end’ furniture pieces to its customers for both home and office settings. Supporting local furniture designers as part of its excellence program is one of the aims of the company. The company, furthermore, is committed to service and after sales support service to its customers whilst offering a number of purchasing options to them. All the company sites are certified with ISO9001:2000, the Quality Management System (QMS). Addressing the potential risks that could be faced by the company, the QMS was adopted for three reasons. First, to strive and achieve excellence, second, to maximise and ensure customer satisfaction. The latter is procured by managing customer service requirement in “real time”. Last, but not least, the QMS provides a framework for the Livingedge staff to address any potential issues that they may encounter during their transactions with the suppliers and customers. Consultation with its stakeholders including the community and industry representatives is also close to the heart of the company management. Regular forums that debate topical issues associated with the furniture sector are held by the company. The company “promotes sustainable products … that can be handed down from generation to generation”. The company promotes sustainable products through the LivingOn label. These labels detail information to customers on the furniture material content, ‘Good Environmental Choice Accreditation’ (GECA) and whether the product is carbon offset.
The company is conscious and proactive in identifying the subsequently reducing (or off-setting) its impact on the ecological environment. Accordingly, in late 2008 it worked with independent auditors to measure its
greenhouse gas emissions (at 3,500 tonnes per year) and since then has implemented strategies to manage its impact. To reinforce the point, the strategy of the company is to monitor, reduce and offset, where it cannot reduce its impact on the environment. The company is also working with a number of its material manufactures to ensure that the raw materials used for its furniture products, the energy consumption during the manufacturing process and the ease of disassembly and recyclable content of its products are best in practice. In first quarter of 2009, Livingedge became the “first Herman Miller dealer in the world to carbon offset the freight emissions on all Herman Miller products travelling to Australia from Asia and the United States. [This was achieved by collecting] the freight emissions from the point of freight (sea/air) to all Living Edge warehouses and [the method used by the company, along with] accuracy of the carbon data collection and offsetting strategy was independently verified by the Swinburne University National Centre for Sustainability” (Livingon, 2009).
The ‘New South Wales State Forest’ and ‘Energy Development’ are the two local organisations being used by the company to oversee the carbon offset program. The company is committed to measure both upstream and downstream environmental impacts of its suppliers and progressively update and roll in its management strategies. At the time of writing, the company was in the process of “implementing a waste management and recycling system as well as switching all [its] operations to 100% accredited GreenPower” (Livingedge, 2008). The company further aimed to “install water saving devices across [its] operations” (Livingedge, 2008) as far as practical and was researching the prospect of installing filtered water points, and the use of water tanks in all sites.
Following its commitment to conserving the natural environment, the company primarily does business with manufacturers who believe and operate in eco-friendly methods too. This is reflected on the company website where the environmental statements and policies of its manufacturers are available. As part of the company overall strategy and to ensure the manufacturers are meeting industry standards it has encouraged its manufacturers and suppliers to become more sustainable. Two of its manufacturers had implemented an EMS and certified it to ISO14001 and a number of others were are in the process of implementing an EMS. Most of its other key manufacturers had agreed to have their product certified with GECA. A number of its own products have also received the “Good Environmental Choice Accreditation’ awards.
One of the selection criteria for its choosing any new manufacturer is that has some form of an EMS system (or ISO14001) in place that addresses areas of waste minimisation, energy use, emissions and material minimisation. Their products should also be designed using sustainable materials, if they are manufacturing overseas, then their factories also need to meet these criteria as well as being socially responsible (for instance, not using child labour as part of its operations). In addition to manufacturers, the company also aims to align itself with other sustainable suppliers and contractors such as stationary suppliers and freight contractors.
Coming back to the company’s implementation of the procedures to identity, measure and resolve (as required) the impact of its operations, as a first step it developed a comprehensive Environmental Management Plan (EMP) which lists all of the initiatives that could be developed within the business. At the time of writing the company had developed a national recycling program, switched to herbal and organic cleaning products for all sites and had sent out an Expression of Interest to a number of energy providers to switch to Green Power. The company personnel were also in the process of developing a green procurement policy.
Implementing management systems and policies on paper will not be successful unless a company’s employees come onboard and become a part of the change process. To this effect, the company has employed a full time person (‘Manager: Product, People, Planet’) to oversee the aspects related to ecological environment. The job title of the person encompasses the comprehensive nature of the environmental area and its organisational stakeholders. Livingedge has been actively training its staff to gain an understanding and the significance of the various systems being adopted across the company. For instance, it created a power point presentation to launch the LivingOn Control system strategy (that included its QMS, EMS, OH&S and CSR areas). The general overview of the new system was covered during the presentation.
Next, it held workshops with staff in each Australian state office to brainstorm Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives. The key people responsible for the development of the strategy and the Chairman (owner) of the business then visited each state for the launch. The Chairman introduced the strategy which immediately showed the staff the importance of the strategy to the business. The people attending the workshops were representatives from all areas of the business and were asked to make suggestions on ways the company could become more sustainable (these workshops generated 140 ideas nationally). The company also created the LivingOn Crew (or Champions) to ensure that it provides assistance to employees when implementing new sustainability initiatives. Furthermore, as part of the aspects and impacts register staff were asked to think and document the environmental affect of their respective work area.
At the time of writing the company was in the process of developing a sales training program which will incorporate a broad spectrum of areas. The areas included: Government issues, Green Building council of Australia and Green Star, Good Environmental Choice Australia, its Environmental Management System, carbon footprint, carbon offsets, role playing, sales presentation (an ongoing sales tool to be used in presentations with clients), Frequently asked questions, and Evaluation/Exam. The sales training is the first training program to occur under the LivingOn Institute which the chairman has agreed to establish. The LivingOn Institute will manage and monitor training needs analysis, selection of training providers, quality of training provisions, evaluation of training effectiveness to best support the achievement of the LivingOn sustainability strategy. The Institute will report directly board.
Livingedge (2008) Living Edge: About Us, www.livingedge.com.au/catalog/company-about-us.php (Date accessed: November 11 2008; and July 13 2009).
Livingon (2009) What is LivingOn?, http://www.livingedge.com.au/catalog/livingon.php (Date accessed: July 13 2009).