The Better Effect Index - The tool that makes it easier to choose sustainable interior design solutions for offices, schools and public environments

More and more people want to make sustainable choices. Architects, interior designers, customers and end users set different requirements for interior design solutions for offices, schools or other public environments. This is why we have launched The Better Effect Index – a tool that makes it easy to choose sustainable, environmentally-friendly interior design solutions.

"People want to see what difference they are actually making"

Johanna Ljunggren, Sustainabillity Manager Kinnarps

"The decision-makers of the future won't be satisfied with buying a label. The trend is clear all over the world. People want to see what difference they are actually making. They don't care about the symbol itself – they want to know how the company earned the label. This is something that will have an impact on procurement processes. It won't be enough for a supplier to tick a box and leave it at that. You have to show that you're in control of the situation," Ljunggren argues.

The Better Effect Index is our way of simplifying and clarifying sustainability work in interior design projects. The idea is that it should be easy for architects and customers to identify important sustainability issues and compare how different products meet the requirements. It should be easy to choose desks, office chairs, storage units and other interior design elements.

Meeting the needs of architects

The Better Effect Index has been designed to meet the needs of architects, interior designers, purchasers, companies and end users. The index is based on a survey of architects and customers and has its origin in the UN's sustainability goals. In The Better Effect Index, we grade our furniture for offices, schools and public environments in six key areas of sustainability. Every product is ranked in the various areas, and you can see exactly which criteria they have, or have not, fulfilled. The sustainability tool is designed as a quick, easy-to-use online tool, and is continuously supplemented with information about new products.

Better sustainability in the furniture industry

The Better Effect Index operates as an open source, giving everyone – from architects and purchasers to customers and competitors – insight into how the products are produced and evaluated.

"This is important. We report not only our good products but also our shortcomings. By being open about what we do, we give the industry opportunities to cooperate in sustainability issues. If we have a shared sustainability agenda, we can together make it easier for you and the customers to make better sustainability choices," says Ljunggren.

Sustainability is important for architects' choices

For Lotta Bergqvist, interior designer at Kanozi Architects in Malmö, sustainability is a priority when she chooses furniture for offices, schools and other workplaces.

"The more we know about materials such as desks, chairs, storage units and other elements of interior design – and how they are manufactured – the easier it is for us to make choices."

Kanozi Architects have a distinct sustainability focus and work on the principle that good architecture has a positive effect on people and results in a society that is socially and ecologically more sustainable. The company has branches in Gothenburg and Malmö, and is a one-stop architects' office with architects, interior designers and engineers. It has over 60 employees in total. Lotta Bergqvist is an interior designer (SIR/MSA) at Kanozi Architects, and is currently involved in projects for Akademiska Hus and Tyréns' own offices in Malmö and Lund.

The importance of sustainable furniture

"When we choose furniture and interior design for schools and public environments, for example, we look for sustainable alternatives from a holistic point of view. Of course we want the design to be sustainable both for the eye and for the passage of time. We want furniture that suits the customer's operations and that they can enjoy using for a long time," says Bergqvist.

The entire value chain is important

"We like to cooperate with Kinnarps because we know they have taken sustainability into consideration throughout the entire chain, through to delivery. We think Kinnarps' delivery system with blankets instead of traditional packaging is a great example of thinking sustainably.

 The furniture is intended to be re-used, renovated and re-upholstered, and these are also important factors."

"In this industry, we are open about how we work on sustainability issues, and we share and cooperate, and I think this is decisive in enabling us to find good, sustainable solutions."

More cooperation in sustainability

The idea of making the sustainability characteristics of furniture over its entire life cycle clearer and easier to grasp by means of a sustainability index such as The Better Effect Index is something Bergqvist welcomes. She also likes the idea of a sustainability index that operates as an open source accessible to everyone – from architects to customers and end users.

"We have a lot of good furniture labels such as Svanen and Möbelfakta, but labels can sometimes be extremely specialised. For a new designer or player on the market, it can also be difficult to have the resources to respond to the major labels. In this industry, we are open about how we work on sustainability issues, and we share and cooperate, and I think this is decisive in enabling us to find good, sustainable solutions. For me as an interior designer, it's important to get involved in the construction process at an early stage, so that I can make sure there's a holistic solution, and make active, coherent choices." 

Simpler procurement

The Better Effect Index shows the sustainability characteristics of furniture in six different areas: raw materials and resources, climate, pure materials, social responsibility, reuse and ergonomics. The idea is, among other things, to make procurement work easier for specifiers such as architects and interior designers.

"At Kanozi, we work with a label called 'Well', which focuses on human well-being from a holistic point of view. The label covers all components of a building, including the interior design. It also includes the idea that the furniture in an office can encourage more movement and better well-being and health."

Sustainable materials

The right information about furniture and materials is crucial if the final result is to be what the architect imagined from a sustainability point of view, according to Bergqvist.

"Knowledge about materials and manufacturing is incredibly important in enabling us to choose the right products. It can be hard to keep track of all the new materials that are constantly being introduced, and it's a great help to get all the facts from the producers right from the start. It's also an important part of sales work that we can explain to the customer why we've chosen particular furniture or particular materials, and what makes them a sustainable choice."

This information is also important in a longer-term perspective. When a project is completed, the possibility of handing a summary to the people who are going to work in the environment and look after it is one way of making things easier for the purchaser. It shows everything about the furniture and their characteristics, and important information about opportunities for supplementing, renovating and recycling.

"If employees have questions about the interior design and why particular furniture was chosen, they should be able to find this information quickly and easily. It also makes it easier to administer the sustainability thinking in an environment, and to develop it further. If the employees know why certain products have been chosen, the products will hopefully not be supplemented with items that are less than optimal from a sustainability point of view."

And this is a sustainability idea in itself.

How The
Better Effect
Index works

All products are graded in six different areas. The highest grade in each area is 3 points. The grade in each area is an average of the points awarded for the indicators, i.e. the different sustainability characteristics we assess. The highest possible total grade when all areas are combined is 3 points. The total grade is an average of the points for the areas.

1. RAW MATERIALS AND RESOURCES

Sustainability characteristics assessed: Knowledge of the origin of the raw materials. Knowledge of conditions in the production chain. Resource optimisation.

2. KLIMAT

Bedömda hållbarhetsegenskaper: Intransport. Uttransport. Leverantörer (fossilfri energi i egen tillverkning). Producenter (fossilfri energi i egen tillverkning). Andel material med låg klimatpåverkan.

3. RENA MATERIAL

Bedömda hållbarhetsegenskaper: Uppfyllda nivåer för kemikalieinnehåll. Uppfyllda nivåer för emissioner. Bra materialval.

4. SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

Sustainability characteristics assessed: Code of Conduct for suppliers. Suppliers which have been risk-assessed. Inspected suppliers from risk countries.

5. REUSE

Sustainability characteristics assessed: Possible to repair/renovate? Possible to recycle materials? Made of recycled material?

6. ERGONOMICS

Sustainability characteristics assessed: Enables movement. Enables customisation. Improves the noise level.