Turning the office furniture green

08:47, May 24, 2010      

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Steelcase, a global leader in office furniture manufacturing, which opened its largest Asian factory in Guangdong province in March, says it is committing itself to a more sustainable future for China.

Created in 1912 in Michigan in the United States, the company is now global and publicly traded, with fiscal 2010 revenues of approximately $2.3 billion.

Steelcase says it has long wanted to have a positive impact on the planet. In 2006, it set a goal to reduce its environmental footprint by 25 percent by the end of 2012, the year of its 100th anniversary.

The company has just received the Green Achievement Award from the International Furnishings and Design Association (IFDA) at its annual Circle of Excellence Awards, hosted by its New York chapter earlier this month. It also received a 2009 Green Power Leadership Award from the US Environmental Protection Agency, demonstrating the company's commitment and contribution to sustainability.

Uli Gwinner, president of Steelcase Asia Pacific, told China Business Weekly how Steelcase was making the office more environmentally friendly and sustainable in China.

"When I joined the company more than 10 years ago, we had already adjusted our management systems according to the green principle," said Gwinner. "All our products now can be dismantled and the components either are reused or recycled."

"One thing is always forgotten when we talk about environmentally-friendly products: The longer you use your product, the better it is. We give eight-year warranties on our products."

Steelcase has manufacturing sites around the world. It makes products locally to save energy and reduce CO2 consumption.

The recently launched a new manufacturing base in Guangdong manufactures products for both Steelcase and a company called Ultra that it acquired.

"We don't ship Chinese products into Europe or America because shipping involves lots of energy consumption," Gwinner said.

Gwinner said the majority of their customers by far were multinational companies when the company entered the China market four years ago. Now it is 50-50 multinationals versus Chinese businesses.

Chinese companies want to compete with the multinational companies, so they offer the same attractive work environment to their workforce. "Chinese companies want to invest in people who can compete on the global market. So we now believe that Chinese companies will soon become the majority of our business," he said.

Gwinner said he had noticed that the Chinese market was adapting to the green office concept because their business was expanding.

"I don't think large companies want to buy furniture every two years. It's important they look at sustainable products that can last eight to 10 years," he said.

"If we do not maintain the sophistication of this solution, then we will be immediately competing with the 2,000 local Chinese furniture manufacturers. We could lose because we will never be as cheap as they are."

Source:China Daily


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