by Heather Burns
We asked Ethan Allen what it means to understand the value of embedding sustainability principles and practices into company DNA; including finding ways to eliminate toxic chemicals from their products.
Answers provided by Farooq Kathwari, Chairman, President & CEO of Ethan Allen.
How does Ethan Allen view sustainability from a business standpoint?
Ethan Allen started with its first plant in the Green Mountains of Vermont in 1932, and sustainability has been an integral part of our culture as a company and our DNA as a brand ever since. We like to say that green isn’t a buzzword here, it’s a business model. We have always been always been an industry leader on environmental issues, from establishing our own internal standards of excellence on recycling and energy consumption to partnering with the American Home Furnishings Alliance on all of its important sustainability initiatives. Wherever we do business in the world today, we are deeply dedicated to the responsible management of our planet’s precious natural resources.
What led to the decision to stop using fire retardants in your products?
The effectiveness of flame retardants has been called into question, so with the revision of upholstery flammability standards, we took the opportunity to take a leadership position in the industry, and now Ethan Allen can offer upholstery fabrics, leathers and resilient filling materials that are free of flame retardants yet still meet or surpass the most stringent U.S. flammability requirements for residential upholstered furniture. We are a client-focused company, and the safety and peace of mind of our clients always come first.
How do you anticipate this action benefiting your business?
We have always prided ourselves on taking the long view. Not just on what’s best for short-term profits, but what’s best for the people we serve and the planet we share. The decisions we make today will have lasting impact on tomorrow, and we never forget that. From a business perspective, it’s our hope that we connect with people who share those values.
What have been some of the operational difficulties or other barriers associated with this action and how has your company overcome them?
I go back to the culture of this company and the DNA of this brand. In other organizations, maybe these changes would’ve been met with resistance or grudging acceptance. But here at Ethan Allen, the challenges are always met with raised hands and the answers are always, "Yes” and “How I can be part of this?”
What is the AHFA Eco3Home certification and what does Ethan Allen hope to accomplish by participating?
This is another area in which we are partnering with AHFA on environmental responsibility issues. Basically, the initiative encourages the use of tags on a product to identify its carbon footprint. It’s a great idea. We are working closely with our AHFA partners to bring it to life. In the meantime, visit the Eco3Home section on the AHFA website. And you can always find our environmental initiatives detailed at http://www.ethanallen.com/en_US/sustainable-operations.html.