What exactly is responsible retailing?


With climate change on our minds this New Year, you can expect to learn a lot more about what’s known as ‘responsible retailing’ in 2022.

Just about every new thing you buy in modern materials comes at an environmental price for the planet. This cradle-to-grave burden begins with sourcing materials, fair labor, energy and waste practices at the site of manufacturing, packaging, delivery regardless of distance involved right down to the showroom floor and much more.

In 2019, a study sponsored by DIY store My Tool Shed found that sofas were the number one leader in CO2 emissions in new furniture. 90 kilograms of carbon dioxide were created by each large sofa with foams and padding providing 40% of that surprising number. Textiles represent more than 20% of associated emissions, while an additional 15% come from wood. That new office chair you swing on may well have required the release of 72kg of CO2.

With most new furniture, unless it’s made entirely from local, sustainably sourced wood, finished in a VOC-free lacquer, and completely human-made in your area, it’s extremely difficult to determine the carbon footprint established during the production of household items. Much of our street furniture and accessories come in a vulgar collision of synthetic ingredients that will doom their relatively short useful life to the ultimate humiliation at the landfill.

Fortunately, there are positive signs of real change to help us all do better.

In spring 2021, Vestre, a Norway-based outdoor furniture company run by their visionary CEO Jan Christian Vestre, became the first furniture manufacturer in the world to report the carbon dioxide load for each piece of furniture they made. This standard is now available on their website in the form of an Environmental Product Declaration.

Look up the environmental credentials of the brand you are considering purchasing from. Words like recyclable, reusable, or biodegradable, are a good start, but beware of greenwashing – clever marketing ploys to emulate planet-friendly behavior with no real principle or practice to back it up.

Raise your expectations, put on these reading glasses and demand better. What is the manufacturer doing to minimize its part in the climate crisis? This should be proudly posted in 2022 on their home website.

A carbon neutral company? This means that every gram per kilometer (g / km) of CO2 created by this company is offset by the amount of carbon saved through renewable energy inclusions and energy efficiency. Made to order (be patient) means your part isn’t one of the thousands in a warehouse – it speaks of less wasteful business practices.

IKEA is still outspoken in its triumphs and failures in responsible retailing, piloting several projects over the past few years to clean up its act. Last year they launched a buy-back and sell-out mechanism in Ireland. This, together with the selection (usually a bit more expensive) of favorite products from the catalog in more environmentally friendly fabrics, should pave the way for other big retailers to follow.

Depending on the condition of the exchanged furniture, IKEA’s redemption / resale voucher can be worth up to 70% of the original price of qualifying items.

Depending on the condition of the furniture exchanged, the redemption / resale voucher can be worth up to 70% of the original price of eligible items. These included
chests of drawers, cabinets with drawers, small structures with drawers, displays and sideboards, bookcases and shelves, small tables, multimedia furniture, wardrobes, dining tables and desks, chairs and stools without upholstery, chests of drawers and children’s products purchased in the last seven years .

You can explore the Circular Hub and try out the online buyback estimate tool at ikea.com, reserving any used IKEA parts you want for the collection.

Moving towards responsible retailing also takes effort on behalf of the consumer. Blown away by the choice, we all tend towards budget and cheerfulness, but always buy cheap and we all end up paying.


What about a very deliberate move away from disposable to quality materials that have been or can be recycled and should in the best case last a lifetime with simple repairs and renovations where possible? Sustainability is more and more synonymous with good design.

The higher the ratio of natural materials, such as
FSC (Forest Stewardship Council)
wood, glass, hemp, jute, cotton, etc.), and the less chemicals and volatile organic compounds involved, the more likely this piece is to go the distance without giving the environment a cruel drop of salt. obsolescence.

We of course need our economy to prosper. Buy, but buy strategically. Retail thrives on impulse, unplanned and joyful purchases. The positioning on the studio floor, its seemingly random placement at eye level on the shelves and the surrounding theater to draw you in? Harden. It’s up to us to bring our principle to the store, to move the market and motivate the sellers who offer nebulous carbon-sucking states, who don’t give a damn.

Of course, you should have what you want, but start with what you need and trace the inclusions in your home as closely as possible. Measure, plot, play with the mood board – narrow down the choice and enjoy the trip. Buying second-hand household items is generally ethical and eco-friendly behavior and is something we can all attempt for one or two large items per year.

Keep in mind that older furniture made of wood, MDF, and other fabrics and trim will not be “outgassed” like a new piece would for the first few weeks after being out of the box. Saving money in the quality vintage market can also provide some really good quality and high design items that many of us just can’t afford new.

Before you pull out the credit card or deploy the cash, do a little research for any signs that this thing is ethically sourced, environmentally light, and well-designed for its type. Buying locally may seem like shortening the supply chain, but that only really matters if the parts you buy aren’t flashy roughly made overseas trash brought in by the pallet.

The making of these things has real world consequences. Take the time to read all of the identification labels. If something is durable, beautiful, and useful, then if you tire of its charms, remember that someone else can take advantage of it.

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