HIGH POINT, N.C. – Today, the world’s leading companies are integrating sustainability considerations into their core business practices. Within the home furnishings industry, the American Home Furnishings Alliance (AHFA) has institutionalized this process and made it accessible to companies large and small.

On the large end of the scale, four of the top 25 sources for the U.S. furniture market* have implemented AHFA’s voluntary environmental management program known as EFEC – or “Enhancing Furniture’s Environmental Culture.” They include La-Z-Boy (residential upholstery, along with case goods companies American Drew, Kincaid and Lea Industries), Flexsteel Industries (including DMI), Hooker Furniture (including Sam Moore and Bradington Young upholstery divisions), and Bassett Furniture.

One more top 25 company – Franklin – is expected to finish implementing the program later this year in 1.1 million square feet of manufacturing space at three plants, plus its corporate headquarters. And Craftmaster, the upholstery division of Top 25 source Lacquer Craft, became EFEC-registered in September.

In addition, Furniture Brands International, the second largest furniture company in the United States (behind Ashley Furniture Inds.), announced this year that 24 separate facilities operated by Lane, Thomasville, Broyhill, Henredon, Drexel Heritage, Maitland Smith, Pearson and Laneventure, along with the Furniture Brands corporate headquarters in St. Louis, Mo., will implement the EFEC program. One Furniture Brands company, Hickory Chair, was EFEC-registered in 2008.

Leggett & Platt Consumer Products Unit, another Top 25 source, also has announced plans to implement EFEC in 13 facilities in six states. The first, a High Point, N.C., components plant, became EFEC-registered in March.

Along with these top 25 sources, four additional furniture companies have completed EFEC: Century Furniture, C.R. Laine, Fairfield Chair and Vaughan-Bassett.

“The combined impact of the environmental improvements made by the companies that have installed the EFEC program is staggering,” reports AHFA Vice President Bill Perdue, who oversees the program for the association.

To achieve registration, a facility must:

* Improve management of resources and raw materials;
* Reduce energy and water consumption; and,
* Reduce waste disposal and associated costs.

Altogether, this comprehensive environmental program – which calls on participants to make continual improvements and undergo an annual maintenance audit to retain their registration – has been implemented at 42 different U.S. facilities, including manufacturing plants, warehouses and corporate headquarters buildings, in 11 different states.

For companies implementing the program in 2009, the cost savings resulting from reduced waste being sent to landfills ranged from $37,000 to $95,000. Electricity use was reduced by anywhere from 5 to 22 percent. Water use was reduced by 5 to 20 percent.

An increased focus on recycling generated significant new revenue for several companies, including over $400,000 at Bradington Young and over $1.9 million at La-Z-Boy’s Dayton, Tenn., upholstery plant – one of six La-Z-Boy upholstery operations that implemented EFEC in 2009.

“In a year when every operational dollar had to be scrutinized, these companies realized significant savings and found sources of new income,” says Perdue. “EFEC companies discover that there is a positive correlation between environmental stewardship and profitable performance.”

AHFA member companies pay nothing to enter the program. A comprehensive guidance document helps steer the EFEC implementation team at each facility through the steps required for registration. In addition, assistance and training is available from the AHFA professional staff, and the growing number of registered facilities is resulting in a comprehensive “best practices” resource on the AHFA website.

“By installing the EFEC program, furniture companies all across the United States are having a positive environmental impact on the communities in which they reside,” says Perdue.

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The American Home Furnishings Alliance, based in High Point, N.C., is the largest association of home furnishings companies in the world and represents more than 200 leading furniture manufacturers and distributors, plus about 150 suppliers to the furniture industry worldwide.

* Furniture/Today Market Research, published May 17, 2010

SOURCE: American Home Furnishings Alliance

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