HIGH POINT, N.C. – The American Home Furnishings Alliance announces a new furniture labeling program designed to help manufacturers communicate a product’s safety, health and environmental features to consumers.

Called Eco3Home, the program will be anchored by a consumer website, where shoppers can research the attributes of a particular piece of furniture in detail, review the environmental record of the manufacturer, and learn what the industry is doing to safeguard consumer health and safety plus improve environmental stewardship. The website will debut in mid-October.

Kincaid Furniture is piloting the program at the October High Point Market with its new “Homecoming” collection. Kincaid management, sales representatives and dealers will be the first to view the consumer-facing marketing materials and will have the opportunity to provide feedback on those materials as part of the pilot effort.

“AHFA invested in research to determine what consumers expect from ‘eco-friendly’ furniture,” explains AHFA CEO Andy Counts. “We discovered that consumers tend to focus on environmental attributes that impact their personal health and safety … or their family’s health and safety. So, for example, having little or no impact on indoor air quality and containing no harmful chemicals were identified more frequently as environmental attributes of furniture than, say, sustainably harvested wood.”

This finding was consistent among both “greener” consumers (those already buying eco-friendly products for their homes) as well as the general population of furniture shoppers overall. The top furniture construction feature named by both groups was “recycled components.”

“These findings did not change AHFA’s commitment to promoting sustainable practices among our member companies in their sourcing, manufacturing and overall operations,” Counts emphasizes. “But the findings did change the way we ultimately decided to communicate Eco3Home to consumers. In fact, the name ‘Eco3Home’ really emerged from the realization that, in the consumer’s mind, safety, health and environment are closely linked.”

As a result, consumer marketing materials will emphasize that the Eco3Home label identifies products that carry a safety, health and environmental promise from the manufacturer. Those promises include:

* Safety: Eco3Home products meet or exceed federal safety standards, as well as industry-adopted voluntary standards. For case goods manufacturers, this means an Eco3Home product must meet voluntary ASTM standards, like those for tip over, as well as Consumer Product Safety Commission standards, like those for bunk bed construction. For upholstery manufacturers, an Eco3Home product must meet the voluntary UFAC fire safety standard until superseded by a federal standard.

* Health: Eco3Home products meet or exceed federal standards regulating the emission of unhealthy chemicals, such as formaldehyde, as well as the presence of unhealthy substances, such as lead. Further, Eco3Home products must use only paints, stains and finishes with low volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions and only fabrics and foams with no PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers, key ingredients in some flame retardant chemicals).

* Environment: All Eco3Home products are made by companies that are engaged in ongoing efforts to conserve water and energy, reduce waste and increase recycling. They have taken specific measures to “green” their supply chain and are using raw materials and construction techniques designed to have a minimal impact on the environment.

Companies seeking the Eco3Home product registration must complete AHFA’s EFEC environmental management program and its Sustainable by Design program, which extends sustainable business practices to global operations, including sourcing of raw materials and supply chain management.

“This reflects AHFA’s core belief that a ‘brown’ company cannot produce a ‘green’ product,” Counts explains.

Eco3Home takes the environmental requirement one step further to include product design and development. Companies must conduct an environmental inventory that calculates an individual product’s impact on greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption, energy consumption, waste- to-landfill and air emissions.

In addition, an individual product content inventory will list all major product components and their environmental attributes. This will include wood from certified sustainable sources, components from recycled/repurposed sources, and components from natural, bio-based or certified organic sources. Where applicable, third party certifications will be required for verification.

Although hangtags, in-store brochures and other point-of-sale signage are designed to communicate the three program promises clearly and succinctly, the backbone of the Eco3Home program will be the website, where consumers will find a rich storehouse of data.

“If she chooses, a consumer will be able to research a manufacturer’s documentation of each step taken to meet the three program promises,” Counts explains. “In addition, the Eco3Home website will be an easy one-stop source for information on any ongoing research or regulatory efforts pertaining to health, safety or environmental issues related to residential furnishings.”

Following the Kincaid pilot, AHFA will begin reviewing additional Eco3Home registration applications in January 2011.

The American Home Furnishings Alliance – located in High Point, N.C., and Washington, D.C. – is the largest association of home furnishings companies in the world and represents more than 240 leading furniture manufacturers and distributors, as well as nearly 200 suppliers to the furniture industry worldwide.

Source: American Home Furnishings Alliance

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