FEMB Sustainability standard for Europe Nears Completion

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The FEMB Sustainability standard for Europe is well on the way to completion. It has been the dedication of the Technical Committee led by Marco Fossi that has brought this four yearlong project to this point. It is due to be launched at Orgatec in October.

In order to face the proliferation of certifications schemes, labels and voluntary standards covering the environmental and social sustainability of furniture products, the FEMB decided in 2010 to adopt a proactive approach and start a process of harmonization existing material with a view of promoting a sustainability certification scheme of its own.

Taking advantage of the parallel experience gained by BIFMA in North America with the “level” certification program, FEMB decided to proceed along a similar path and develop an industry standard on which to base a voluntary certification scheme, specifically designed to cover the environmental and social sustainability of their products. In order to facilitate a future mutual recognition between the American BIFMA level certification and the new European FEMB standard, the Ansi/Bifma structure has been retained and remains manly based on it, with some specific needs of the European context taken into account.

In the future, development of the standard we will continue cooperation with BIFMA to ensure that our respective requirements will converge and provide in the long term one common globally applicable standard. We are working together with BIFMA to make our certifications mutually recognized.

One immediate advantage is at last we have a pan-European certification scheme for the sustainability of office furniture. In Europe if we exclude the EU Ecolabel, which for many reasons has not been successful in the furniture sector, we have only had either national schemes or single attribute eco-certifications. Manufacturers had to meet different environmental requirements and get different certifications depending on the market of destination of their products. This entails additional costs for producers and difficulties for clients. The new FEMB standard will not substitute at once the national certifications but indicates a common European path to be followed and a common methodology to present the environmental characteristics of a product in a clear, easily understood manner with a common language that gives end users the ability to make easy comparisons.

With the new FEMB certification, customers will be able to make informed choices about commercial furniture that exceed single attribute eco-certifications. As in the case of the bifma/level certification, the new FEMB mark will identify that a product has been checked by an independent third party certifier. A numeric scaling from 1 to 3 will indicate what threshold of certification it has achieved.

For manufactures conformity to the FEMB standard will facilitate trade across geographic borders, will provide cost savings and will reduce wasted time and resources, usually needed to chase different requests from different national markets.

For customers the FEMB standard and future certification will provide a reliable tool to compare the environmental and social impacts of furniture products coming from any country.

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