In their most recent issue of WHY Magazine, Herman Miller poses some incredibly engaging questions about sustainable design – and their answers are fantastic, as you might expect. You can read the full article here, but we’ll walk through some of the methods they’ve picked to deal with their sustainability issues below.
A few notes
The reason we’re passing along this information isn’t just to pat Herman Miller on the back (though certainly some of these items warrant that). Instead, these ideas are universal – some version of many of these ideas could be employed even in small businesses. We’d like to think that this blog post might spark even one business to implement something similar to one of the ideas below.
A long time coming
At Herman Miller, we’ve been thinking hard about how to do business as sustainably as possible since our founder, D.J. De Pree, challenged us 60 years ago to be good citizens and good stewards of the environment. And we’ve kept at it, chipping away year after year, always using the same problem-solving approach that we use when designing products. As D.J. famously said, “In the long run, businesses and business leaders will be judged not by their profits or their products, but by their impact on humanity.” At Herman Miller, we see our impact on the environment as a huge part of our impact on humanity.
Herman Miller has been looking at these issues for a long time. While De Pree’s words don’t relate solely to the environment, they certainly include that perspective. It’s great to see a company like Herman Miller walking through a public review of some of what they’ve done, and what they could do better!
Companies bringing in new furniture or remodeling are invited to donate their old assets to nonprofits worldwide. It’s actually a pretty simple concept, and Herman Miller just happens to be positioned in a place where they can pretty easily be effective at helping. Essentially, you just contact Herman Miller and say that you’d like to donate through rePurpose, and they take care of the rest. So far, they’ve diverted about 27,000 tons of product from landfills, generating about $18 million in charitable donations. Oh, that’s right – you might qualify for a tax break doing this.
We’ll help you properly dispose of copy machines, paper clips—even the excess letterhead that has the former name of your business unit. All these items are of value to nonprofit groups in your immediate community and around the world. In fact, part of the rePurpose program allows you to suggest deserving nonprofits for consideration.
Gift of Hope
Herman Miller is donating fabric scraps to seamstresses in Haiti, and has been since 2015, giving them free materials to work with and setting up a closed market for them by selling the goods produced to their employees. It’s a beneficial cycle that happens to also reduce waste.
In a number of products, sustainability concerns have led to high-level decisions to switch materials for products. In 1990, the iconic Brazilian rosewood Eames Lounge Chair was moved to santos palisander (a more sustainable wood that looks similar). Similar decisions have more recently been made with the company’s Aeron chair, which is both lighter and made of more sustainable materials than in years past.