A couple of decades ago “green” was nothing more than a color that only a few people liked and most avoided because it doesn’t go with anything. Today, the term green is a vague reference to anything that can be marketed to infer environmental stewardship. But what does it mean? How does or should it change people’s behavior? I find it confusing when tree huggers are asked if they prefer paper or plastic at the grocery store they invariably choose paper. Is grinding up trees for paper bags green? I’m confused.
A quick search reveals countless organizations willing to offer some form of green certification for almost any product on the market, for a fee of course. As a business that manufactures and sells furniture globally, we have been offered nationally recognized green certification for our products, regardless of its country of origin, and in some cases regardless of the manufacturing process used. While some of these certification organizations appropriately measure process and outcome, in truth, many of these certifiers often have little to do with environmental stewardship. For a fee, you too can be green.
Consumers, given the choice, want to be green and are often willing to sacrifice a little in price or convenience … but very little. Survey after survey suggests that the general public believes in recycling, energy efficiency and conservation, but few are willing to actually sacrifice much to attain these. Where government has intervened the situation has often become worse rather than better, with numerous examples of “unintended consequences” so common with governmental oversight (i.e., Biomass provision in the 2008 Congressional Farm Bill).
The industry must adopt a common sense approach to the subject of green. Some items align easily with environmental considerations, while others are more challenged. The industry must balance green initiatives with the demands of the consumer and with the various realities of manufacturing and a complex supply chain. This must be done in a manner that is easy to understand, that balances practical realities and costs, and that, most importantly, allows the consumer to make a holistic and informed choice.
The industry must control its own destiny with a proactive and holistic approach to environmental stewardship. Failure to do so will leave the industry vulnerable to political correctness driven mandates that will artificially increase costs and drive American furniture manufacturing further into a position of non-competitiveness.
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