FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is Sustainable by Design?
Sustainable by Design is a certification program developed by the American Home Furnishings Alliance for its member companies. The program provides a roadmap for home furnishings companies to create a corporate culture of conservation and environmental stewardship by integrating sustainable business practices into their manufacturing operations and sourcing strategies.
How is Sustainable by Design different from "EFEC"?
AHFA led the home furnishings industry in promoting sound environmental practices when it developed EFEC in 1999. EFEC – "Enhancing Furniture’s Environmental Culture" is an environmental management system designed to help furniture manufacturers move beyond regulatory compliance to environmental stewardship. EFEC registration is earned at the individual facility level and requires that facility to analyze and better understand the environmental impact of its operations, raw materials and finished products.
At its 2007 Annual Meeting, AHFA introduced its membership to Sustainable by Design, a corporate environmental program that provides a broader umbrella than EFEC. EFEC creates a culture of conservation and environmental stewardship within a specific facility. Sustainable by Design extends that culture throughout the entire corporation and its supply chain. It provides companies with a comprehensive plan for continually improving sustainable business practices.
What controls are in place to verify the claims of Sustainable by Design companies?
Any organization attempting to recognize companies for environmental accomplishments must be concerned about the potential for misrepresentation. AHFA has set specific controls to ensure the veracity of company declarations within the SBD certification process. As in the EFEC program, a Board of Examiners serves as the focal point for administrative and authoritative oversight. A comprehensive audit is part of the initial certification process, and an annual maintenance audit is required to maintain certification. AHFA also randomly selects companies each year for a third-party compliance audit.
What are the requirements of becoming Sustainable by Design?
There are four key requirements for Sustainable by Design:
1) Implement the EFEC Environmental Management System for all domestic facilities. Measurable benefits of implementing EFEC include:
- Better management of resources and raw materials;
- Reduced energy and water consumption;
- Reduced waste disposal and associated costs; and,
- Improved overall operational performance and efficiency.
2) Sustainable Supply Chain Management. “Greening” the supply chain refers to a company requiring environmental responsibility on the part of its suppliers. Sustainable by Design companies must establish internal standards, practices and management systems that govern their own environmental performance. If their suppliers do not abide by the same or similar standards, the company may end up minimizing or even negating its positive impact on the environment. Sustainable by Design provides guidance for partnering with suppliers and helping them meet environmental goals. Tools include:
- A “mini check list” to help suppliers identify opportunities for improvement;
- Guidelines for sharing records and documentation (chain of custody);
- Steps for notifying suppliers of minimum requirements; and,
- An information exchange allowing Sustainable by Design participants to move productive environmental ideas and initiatives up, down and across the supply chain.
Sustainable by Design companies must have a plan to assist suppliers worldwide in developing and implementing sustainability programs. The plan is evaluated as part of an annual maintenance audit.
3) Calculate a Corporate Environmental Footprint. Sustainable by Design companies must calculate a baseline carbon footprint and a baseline inventory for Greenhouse Gas Emissions so they can demonstrate annual improvement.
4) Assess Social Performance. The social dimension of environmental performance is an outgrowth of global manufacturing and the impact companies have on the social systems within which they operate. Evaluating ecological performance, thus, has become inextricably linked to principles such as indigenous people’s rights, workers’ rights and community relations. Sustainable by Design walks participants through the process of developing policies that:
- Define the company’s commitment to human rights and internationally-recognized labor standards;
- Identify the company’s potential impact on communities and manage any risk potential; and,
- Address the impact of the company’s products on consumer health and/or safety.