As one of Scandinavia’s leading producers of upholstered furniture, we are always responsible for advancing our sustainability work. In our Sofa Talk interview with Furninovas Purchasing and Logistics Manager, Thomas Nordqvist, we learn more about sustainability – one of our company’s most important commitments.
I am over 50 with a partner and two children, raised and living in the metropolis of Hässleholm, 15 minutes from Bjärnum. In my spare time, I enjoy physical activities as far away from my sedentary office life as possible. Purchasing, logistics and sales have always been close to my heart, but I began my working life, a little unexpectedly, in the care sector and special needs primary education. For a number of years early on, I worked with children and young people with autism. This was a wonderful time that provided me with a great deal of experience. I also learned to see and understand people’s needs. This was followed by a spell at Hässleholm local authority, where I worked with public procurement.
I did not exactly plan my route to the furniture sector. I was looking around for something else and got a job at another furniture company. This company resembled Furninova in many respects. I was there for 3–4 years before joining Furninova. I’ve been here for more than two decades now, so I’m clearly happy. What a journey it’s been, and we’re not there yet.
I am the Purchasing and Logistics Manager. Being purchasing manager is basically simple. It’s a matter of ensuring that the right goods of the right quality in the right version and at the right price arrive at the right time. Being a logistics manager is much more difficult, where it is mostly a matter of solving challenges. As with all exports, for example, there are lots of challenges, particularly in relation to administration. And the requirements vary from country to country. Today, around 80 per cent of our production is exported. Our products can be found pretty much all over the world, from Europe, the Middle East and Asia to North Africa and North America. And our export market is growing at breakneck speed.
In my opinion, it’s anything but monotonous. Others might find it stressful that most of the things on the to-do list are still there at the end of the day. Other things have come up, quite simply. I’ve been doing this for so long now that I can prioritise and don’t get stressed. On the other hand, it’s difficult to deal with world events that we can’t influence, such as factories being shut down for days – it’s frustrating.
For the first time, I sense that the sustainability issue is being taken seriously, that it’s real now. At long last, in my opinion. The pressure is coming from consumers, and this naturally affects retailers. It will be challenging for all manufacturers to keep up in this respect, because things are now moving quickly. If I had to highlight one specific area, it would be transport. Dealing with all the plastic used in transport packaging is a major challenge. It’s a complex task, as there are so many different sizes of furniture. But this work has to be done – it’s a matter of transforming and adapting the business. We set out on our journey several years ago. Today, for example, all leather waste is utilised and turned into products such as mobile phone cases. And leftover fabric from the sofa manufacturing process is made into sacks to hold the leather waste.
In order to ensure that social, environmental and quality requirements on our part are met, we have developed a supplier policy that all suppliers have signed and have to adhere to. Our aim is to adopt a long-term approach in our work with our suppliers, and thereby build up a strong collaboration that benefits our work on sustainability issues. Our fabric and leather suppliers, for example, have to satisfy requirements according to REACH, an EU regulation relating to the production and safe use of chemicals. In addition, an increasing proportion of our fabrics also meet the requirements for Oeko-Tex, a worldwide system certifying that the fabrics do not contain chemicals that cause negative effects, either to people or the environment.
It’s already here, having undergone testing at RISE (Research Institutes of Sweden). RISE works with industrial research and innovation, as well as performing testing and certification. The Nordic Swan Ecolabel is the best-known ecolabel in the Scandinavian countries, delivering certification and scope with world-class environmental goals. But this is just the beginning. In the future, we will be making sofas primarily from climate-smart materials.
Most people are probably familiar with FSC and know that it’s a good thing, although not exactly how. Being FSC-certified is a guarantee that all the wood comes from sustainably grown forest. For us, this means that the entire chain is certified, from raw material to finished product. FSC is also working to improve the living and working conditions of forest workers, as well as to clarify the relationship between responsible forestry and actions that can mitigate climate change. For our customers, and ultimately for consumers, this means that they can rest assured that the furniture we manufacture takes both nature and people into consideration.
This will definitely affect all of us more and more in future. Here in the Nordic region, we are at the forefront regarding these issues, but other countries are making significant strides. It’s a matter of reviewing the entire production process and reducing the use of metals, water and chemicals, as well as using more sustainable materials. This may initially result in higher production costs, but it will gradually even out as the rise is largely related to high starting costs.
Good dialogue is an important part of long-term collaborations, where we discuss what we need going forward and thereby lay the foundations for well-planned investments. We act as a guarantor, providing security for our business partners. Our brand new factory in Poland, for example, is self-sufficient when it comes to heating, with any surplus being sold on. We are planning to install solar cells in connection with the factory, which will allow it to supply its own electricity. I believe it is important for us to be able to meet our partners at a senior level and develop these important issues together.
It has a considerable impact. If a company doesn’t keep up-to-date on these issues, they will lose business and be mercilessly discarded.
At the beginning of my time at Furninova, we were riding on the crest of a huge wave of success. We had a completely new position on the market, with good design and quality at great prices thanks to our in-house manufacturing in Poland. At the furniture fairs, we felt a bit like rock stars. There were queues to our stand, with people shouting and tugging at us, all in order to buy our products. The competition is stiffer now, but our success has continued, albeit at a slightly more moderate level. There are also numerous stories of clashes between my mathematical, slightly square brain and other more creative brains. Then there are all the times when someone has wanted to change something, usually just for the sake of change. I particularly remember one occasion when a customer wanted to adjust the incline of the backrest by one millimetre. I don’t believe that adjustment was especially noticeable in terms of comfort.
I have to brag a little about my home municipality. They have come a long way on these issues, particularly when it comes to sorting at source. We now sort into ten different fractions in different containers in the Nordqvist home. I may possibly have become something of an ogre when it comes to enforcing this, but I think these issues are important.
We have three sofas, all of which are from Furninova. Anything else would be completely unthinkable, even though my partner has attempted a coup on one occasion. Furninova is always striving to have one of the widest ranges of sofa models on the market, enabling us to offer models to suit every need. And if my partner still can’t find a suitable Furninova sofa, I can complain to our designers.
If you would like to know more, read our Sustainability Report