Every now and again you will see a particular type of business come out of Scandinavia. Businesses who put their values higher than their need to make money. Green Furniture Concept is one of those businesses. A furniture company who wants to inspire their competition to follow in their footsteps, by creating sustainable furniture. – But is an ethical mindset about more than just having a good attitude? Can it in fact also be the selling point of a business? And can you invite your competition to join you and still succeed with your own business?
We met up with the founder of Green Furniture Concept Johan Berhin in order to give you the story behind this remarkable business, and how they run a sustainable furniture company, with a clever business structure.
How the business came to be
The values and the reasoning behind the business all started when Berhin created his first chair, back in 2007. After launching it at the Copenhagen Furniture Fair, he closed his first deal selling 700 chairs to a French distributor. Berhin had chosen local manufacturing in Southern Sweden, but the end-product was smelly. “I was shocked how smelly the production was” Berhin said. “I thought that the rules and regulations of the Swedish system would see to [it] that it was cleanly done.”
“I felt that I couldn’t stand for that production, and I wanted to do something really good. And I decided to make Green Furniture … And that’s when the name Green Furniture came into the picture.”
Berhin made a swift decision to withdraw the chairs from the French Market. “I actually pulled back the chair from the French market and said I’ll be back”. He went back and reviewed the entire chain of production, from breaking down where the wood came from to re-planting trees as compensation for the trees they were using in creating their furniture.
Six months later he was back with a sustainable product, but his planned re-entry to the French market was unsuccessful. He had lost the market. This journey had, however, resulted in Berhin’s development of a new range of products and the business Green Furniture Concept was truly born.
“I got in contact with shopping malls, and started understanding what they needed”. The shopping malls were eager to try these new products, and this later led to future sales in other types of public areas. 11 years down the line they have now produced over 5 kilometres of benches, which they have sold to an array of academic institutions, railway stations, shopping malls, hospitals, and airports in a wide range of locations around the world.
The potential of a space
A space is more than just a space. The detail of an interior, and how the space is occupied, adds a new layer of experience for the person visiting or travelling through it. When Green Furniture Concept created the furniture for Keflavik International Airport in Iceland, they considered the natural environment of Iceland, and made a conscious effort to reflect that in their choice of materials and colours. By doing this, the furniture has an identity which matches the nature of the country it is in. This in turn enhances the experience of the people who encounter it.
”We are making ‘places’ rather than just seats”. Again Berhin and his team think about full solutions. The focus is not just on creating actual seats, but also the effect of the furniture, its colour, shape, and even possible accessories such as electrical plugs or bin systems.
Also improving the school environment
According to a source at Malmo County, approximately 6- 8 million SEK is spent on new furniture when renovating or building a new school. The choice of selecting the right furniture is therefore important. Interior designers in this case have to choose furniture which can handle a high level of usage and last for many years.
Anna Ottosson, Interior Designer and Construction Engineering at a school renovation project at Rosengård Skolan in Malmo:
“The assignment was to convert the school, so that it would fit kids in the age group 6 to 12 years old.” The school had previously been for pupils in their teens.
“I felt the [Green Furniture] benches were beautiful in their design and organic shape, as well as being child friendly, which was something we prioritised. The furniture seemed to fill the open space I was working on in a good way, and added a natural and calming effect to the space. And from a distance the benches almost functioned as a jewellery decorating the space.”
360 degrees of sustainability
Through every step of the product, the team behind Green Furniture Concept works with sustainability, from selecting local manufacturers to using materials which are made in a sustainable way, as well as being nontoxic.
“Sustainable AND better” is the driving force behind the business. Berhin has created the company to be a front runner in sustainable green furniture. “That is the one way we can make a change in the world. Contribute to something positive, and that we actually bring others with us”.
Wanting to inspire his competitors to join their mission, Berhin explained that he hopes for other businesses to see that you can still have a well-functioning business model built on sustainable choices. “[We] ourselves, do not really have a planetary impact. But if we could make the whole industry, the furniture industry, follow, that would be a real vision going to work for.”
A green business model
Berhin seems to be more than just a good-hearted person. His understanding of his customers’ needs brings forward a variety of clever business models. The essence of his business is not to re-sell new furniture every two years to his existing customers. Instead, he wants to provide customers with “an impression that lasts” of long lasting furniture.
The company has recently added another 10 years to their warranty, leading to all the furniture now having a 15 year warranty. And as they believe in reuse and no waste, the company also has a buy-back-policy, meaning that Green Furniture Concept will buy back the furniture for 5% of the original price, and collect it on site. This way they can reuse the remaining good quality of the product and tweak it to fit into new adaptable environments.
Berhin also shares that the company also are working with a somewhat uncommon sales concept within the furniture business, they now also provide the service “to rent the function fresh furniture.” A business can pay a yearly subscription fee. This ensures that they will always have a seating area in shape. If the furniture breaks or is vandalised, they simply call Green Furniture Concept and they will fix or replace the broken product.
Competitors – please follow our footsteps
With today’s business structures being smaller, new needs arise. Businesses often have a greater need for collaborating with fellow medium sized businesses, and hubs and shared office spaces have become a regular thing. Creating an environment where you can learn from other young businesses seems to be the way forward in many industries. Berhin states that they are not afraid to share knowledge on how to be a sustainable business. Backed up by a statement on greenfc.com “We want to share the knowledge we have ac-quired and developed. Through talks and events targeting the world of interior design profession-als, Green Furniture Concept is helping spread knowledge and ideas about sustainable, non-toxic interiors.”
All of the things Green Furniture Concept are doing seem like the right thing for a Scandinavian business to do. Or is that just the perception Scandinavians have? Could businesses with such structures also exist in other places in the world?
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