CEH’s Award-Winning Success in Kicking Toxic Chemicals Out of Furniture

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Earlier this month, CEH was awarded the “Market Transformation” Award by by the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council (SPLC) for our work to move the furniture industry towards healthier, less toxic  products.  CEH’s work educating and assisting major corporations towards purchasing safer furniture, made without toxic chemicals provided an important example of how purchasers can incentivize the production of healthier products. CEH’s  case study on our work in “Kicking Toxic Chemicals Out of Office Furniture – Getting Rid of the ‘Hazardous Handful’ ” provides key metrics of our success.

furniture awards banquet

Judy Levin of CEH at the SPLC Awards Banquet

Since 2014, CEH worked to influence major companies in changing the way they buy furniture. By signing a Purchaser Pledge and communicating with their suppliers, companies can protect their employees, customers and the community from harmful chemicals. Our goal was to take the buying power of companies that collectively spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year on new office furniture, and use it to influence companies that make and supply furniture. We knew that once major buyers start demanding safer furniture made without toxic chemicals, large suppliers will step up to produce those safer products.

Using this strategy, we helped to change virtually the entire market for office furniture. As Triple Pundit, one of the leading the publications on corporate social responsibility, noted in their article

In 2014 [CEH’s] efforts were picked up by Kaiser Permanente, which announced it would no longer be purchasing furniture that contained flame retardant chemicals for its hospitals and offices….Other organizations such as Facebook, Autodesk, Yahoo!, City and County of San Francisco and many others soon followed Kaiser’s example. Since then, an increasing number of furniture manufacturers have announced that they are going chemical flame-retardant free.

Building on the win on chemical flame retardants, CEH extended its focus to reducing the use of other toxic chemicals we call the “Hazardous Handful.”  In addition to flame retardants, the other targeted chemicals of concern include harmful stain and water repellant treatments, antimicrobials, formaldehyde and PVC.

Now even more major furniture buyers are following the lead of our Purchaser Pledge signers. Just this week, New York became the first state in the country to adopt strict restrictions on furniture purchased to avoid the “Hazardous Handful” of toxic chemicals.  

The SPLC is a non profit with more than 180 members representing businesses and others that collectively purchase products and services worth over $200 billion annually. CEH’s Judy Levin, who leads our sustainable purchasing work, spoke at the SPLC banquet in Denver. In accepting the award, Judy noted the institutions and businesses who have signed the CEH Purchaser’s Pledge, including Partners HealthCare,The Honest Company, the City of Portland, the City and County of San Francisco, Department of the Environment, University of California, Santa Cruz and others, and invited other businesses in attendance to join us by signing the Pledge.  

If your business, university, government agency or other institution is interested in moving the market towards healthier furniture and would like to join us by signing the Pledge, please contact Judy Levin at judy@ceh.org

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