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Rainforest Alliance, Furniture Industry Promote Responsible Production

By: Gretchen Ruethling - Monday, January 29, 2007
Source: Rainforest Alliance

Representatives from the Rainforest Alliance, a non-profit international conservation organization, are taking part in an innovative new group called the Sustainable Furniture Council, which brings together members of the home furnishings industry and organizations that are committed to responsible business practices and promoting furniture that is produced in an environmentally and socially responsible way.

The council, which is scheduled to become a legally chartered industry group in February 2007, will have its third organizing meeting on Tuesday, January 30 at the Las Vegas Market furniture trade show at the World Market Center in Las Vegas.

"The home furnishings industry uses one of the earth’s most beautiful resources, wood, to create products that range from simple and functional pieces to real works of art," said Daphne Hewitt, projects manager in the Rainforest Alliance’s Training, Research, Extension Education and Systems program, who is on the council’s standards committee. "By encouraging manufacturers, retailers and suppliers in the industry to adopt sustainable practices, the council will be ensuring that this beauty is reflected in the entire process, from the responsibly managed forest where the wood originated through final production."

Buying sustainable furniture is one way environmentally and socially conscious consumers can express their values through the products they choose to put in their homes. The council members are hoping to increase consumer awareness and demand for “green” or sustainable home products.

Gerry Cooklin, founder and CEO of South Cone Trading Company, a furniture manufacturer based in Gardena, Calif., created the council to serve as an advisory group for members of the home furnishings industry and to raise awareness about sustainability.

"The furniture industry has a lot of power in conservation because we add the most value to wood resources," Cooklin said. "It has been impressive to see how quickly interest in this effort within the industry has grown."

More than 40 representatives from groups including manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers and non-profit organizations are currently on the council. It will encourage companies to incorporate responsible practices and also aims to create standards outlining the way businesses should source raw materials and use sustainable products.

Hewitt and two other representatives from the Rainforest Alliance are on the council’s standards committee. They will provide guidance and technical input as the council identifies practices, which members will be expected to follow, that demonstrate the sustainable use of resources.

Members will gather for the council’s third organizing meeting at the Las Vegas Market on Tuesday, January 30 at 7 a.m. at the new Four Hands showroom, space B270, on the second floor of Building Two at the World Market Center, 495 S. Grand Central Parkway, Las Vegas, Nevada.

The Rainforest Alliance brings to the council two decades of global experience in standards development and compliance. The organization is the world’s leading certifier of forestlands under the rigorous environmental and social standards of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

Manufacturers and consumers who are interested in locating FSC-certified suppliers of wood furniture and furniture components can also access a free online resource from the Rainforest Alliance called the
SmartGuide to Sustainable Furniture and FSC-Certified Components.

The Rainforest Alliance works to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods by transforming land-use practices, business practices and consumer behavior.

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