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From Home Furnishing Business

Sowing the Seeds of Change

By Home Furnishings Business in Furniture Retailing on March 2007 Environmental awareness hit an all-time high at the recent High Point Market. The place was buzzing with events and activities designed to promote awareness and support new methods of production. Interest and support for the migration toward sustainable practices was clear: the guest book at the Sustainable Furniture Council booth, inside the Greenstyle Pavilion at Suites at Market Square, reads like a who€™s who of the retail world.

It wasn€™t all sunshine and smiles though. There were several manufacturers I spoke with during Market who were critical or skeptical about the business of being eco-friendly. Honestly, most of the objections I heard sounded defensive or unapologetic or just plain uninformed. Yes, there are contradictions within what is currently known about global warming. Yes, there is €œgreen-washing€ going on and not all claims are valid. It€™s also true that no one knows for sure exactly how climate change will affect our lives or what the timeline is. What we do know is that scientists are 90 percent certain the earth€™s climate is changing as a result of human behaviors that produce greenhouse gases, and that there are things we can do to minimize the negative outcomes. Carbon offset programs are one example.

How Carbon Offsets Work

During Market, a manufacturer I spoke to derided carbon offset programs as a scam. Retailers need to understand how carbon offsets work. The basic deal for manufacturers is a process whereby their carbon footprint (output) is assessed and a corresponding fee calculated with payment going to a carbon offset service/broker who in turn funds a project elsewhere that contributes to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. It isn€™t a perfect system. It can be abused. But it is incredibly effective when administered properly, which is most of the time.


A warning on climate risks made front page on a recent weekend edition of The Financial Times. That got my attention. The Financial Times is not a place where I usually look for environmental news; however, speculation about the cost of dealing with insurance claims from floods and storms, lower agricultural yields, droughts and the spread of human, animal and plant diseases due to global warming is rampant and big business is looking for answers. The story pointed to Camille Parmesan, a biology professor at the University of Texas, who has singled out the white pine beetle and the spruce bark beetle as forest-destroying pests that are munching their way through areas of the U.S. previously denied to them by the cold. I don€™t exactly know what that means but it doesn€™t sound good.

Now, it€™s a well-established fact that the media will stop at nothing in order to get your attention. The programers are as guilty as the advertisers. These days it takes a lot of dedication to sort through all the messages clamoring for your attention, but not all headlines are doom and gloom. Google alerts keep us all entertained with screamers such as €œEco-babies to cost hundreds more€ and €œTaiwan introduces eco-friendly ancestor-worship rituals€ (which is actually not as crazy as it sounds).

Your Thoughts Here

As our industry repositions itself for the future, those of us who care should be reminded that innovation is a numbers game. That means we€™ve got to constantly feed ideas into the pipeline to discover solutions. It€™s the same as the process used to separate gold from dross. With ideas, the process of constantly reinventing the process is truly the mother of invention. Likewise, sometimes playing it safe can be dangerous. Either way, change is coming whether we€™re ready or not. If you€™ve got ideas to share, then log onto to and join us and other retailers in a conversation about change. Blog on our site€”it€™s fun, it€™s free and it€™s read by your peers. HFB

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