Skagerak: Leading The Way In Sustainability

Green or profitable; a business can be one or the other, but not both. You’ll hear that a lot, but it’s not an idea that goes down well with Jesper Panduro, CEO of furniture manufacturer Skagerak. He insists there is no conflict between the two goals. After taking control of a company that already had eco friendliness built into its DNA, he has driven the environmental agenda even further. That’s why Skagerak is leading the way in sustainability.

As the company, founded in 1976, edges towards its 50th anniversary, Skagerak is doubling down on its leading role in sustainable furniture production in environmentally friendly craft shops. It started with the goal of inspiring its customers with sustainable beauty and craftsmanship. Now Skagerak is committing more and more resources to also looking after the planet as well.

It is also launching initiatives to enhance its role in making furniture sustainable. Business models include both renting and recycling. It is all part of the initiative to make sure that every piece has the longest possible useful life expectancy.

Leading the way to a Sustainable Future

Jesper Panduro and some of Skagerak’s products

Jesper Panduro took over as CEO in 2005 and has driven the emphasis on making Skagerrak lead the way in sustainability. He makes sure it plays its role in caring for the environment. “Sustainability is an ongoing journey,” he says. “In the beginning, we worked with quality as our main priority, but in 2003 we started to use FSC certified wood (Forest Stewardship Council, the gold standard for ethical forestry) for our production.

“It was a small step in a new direction that proved challenging at times because it wasn’t always easy to obtain FSC certified wood of the right quality. That has fortunately changed, and each year we increase our share with the ambition of using 100 percent FSC certified wood by 2025. We are heading in the right direction, in 2019 our share of FSC certified wood reached 85 percent.”

2019 was also the year Skagerak committed itself to reaching carbon neutrality by 2030. Work has started already. An in-depth study has revealed unseen ways the company might contribute to CO2 emissions. “It is an enormous task, and we are going about it humbly. We make changes in our everyday routines, like flying less frequently and upgrading our digital possibilities. We would also very much like to grow and preserve forests, we love wood,” Mr Panduro explains.

International Alliances in Sustainability

Skagerak, which set up its factory in Aalborg in Denmark and gets its name from the nearby inlet that separates that country from Norway and Sweden, has always been in the business of leading the way in sustainability. From day one, core values of respect and sustainability drove decisions. The key values cover materials, production, and the way it treats partners and employees.

That is why Skagerak was so keen on joining the UN Global Compact Act in 2010. It expanded its commitment to sustainability in 2017. That’s when it became one of over 4,000 companies worldwide to join the B Corp movement. Membership committed it to becoming a certified benefit corporation. It meets the highest standards for social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.

Mr Panduro insists there is no contradiction between that green outlook and hard-headed business decisions. “Business and sustainability can go hand in hand, and one doesn’t necessarily exclude the other,” he points out.

“You have to have the courage to look at the most compelling motivation for creating sustainable and lasting change. Then build the business that does that. We used to say that we can’t be something for everybody, but something for somebody. That has fortunately created loyal consumers and earned us new ones that are curious about our products and our profile. That is great.

“When you own a business, you have to act as responsibly as possible. Responsibility permeates most of the things we do. There is always room for improvement, and when you are working with people, things change naturally. It doesn’t cost more to work with sustainability. It is a priority, and we strive to comply with a responsible process for as long as possible.”

How Does Skagerak Build Sustainability?

The starting point meant delving back into the origins of the company to reap the rewards of crafting designs made to last. The modern Nordic touch was always vital to this Danish company. It was essential the furniture lasted for decades, regardless of where its use. Indoors or outdoors, the same standards apply.

That rejection of the throwaway culture so popular back in the 1970s was vital then and is even more significant now. “We create furniture that is built to be used and to survive in the long run, so it patinates and accumulates stories,” adds the CEO.

“In our world, stories and relations are the most important thing, and we strive to make furniture that makes it easy and launch new concepts that can make it a reality. And that is something I am proud of.”

Seeing Both the Wood and the Trees

After years in the making, Skagerak has fulfilled one of its management’s dreams. It has bought 42 hectares of land in Denmark and aims to plant 90,000 trees before the end of 2022.

After all, wood is the principal component of the furniture Skagerak makes. It must be environmentally friendlier to grow it as close to the factory as possible. On top of eventually supplying the firm’s raw material needs, there are short-term benefits. The forest helps carbon capture, is good for biodiversity and is a recreational area for the local community.

“It takes years for a forest to grow and we most likely won’t benefit from this – it’s a forest for our children and all future generations to benefit from,” Jesper Panduro adds. “The project is also a natural step on our journey towards becoming CO2 neutral in 2030.”

Recycling Initiative Leads Sustainability

It makes sense to make the most of the skill and quality that went into crafting such high-end furniture. That is why Skagerak launched the Reclassic initiative. The idea is simple. An owner may have some Skagerak outdoor furniture that is rich with patination and the signs of age and wants a change. If so, the company will buy it back, restore it and recycle it.
So you can confidently buy a second-hand Skagerak bench or any item of Skagerak garden furniture at less than the cost of a new item. In fact, some people will even feel it is better. Partly because its former life will have given it character. Partly because many customers get a virtuous glow from knowing they are giving the furniture a second life. Both approaches help Skagerak lead in sustainability.

Some of it is as good as new. Maybe the first owner bought it for a single-use event, such as a photoshoot or exhibition. Other pieces have had a longer, and maybe harder, life. The price reflects the condition.

The same goes for all the Skagerak indoor furniture too. Moving house or simply changing the decor doesn’t have to mean a trip to the dump to get rid of perfectly good furniture. It can mean selling it back and replacing it with pieces that fit the new setting.

Rent to Help a Sustainable Future

You don’t even have to own Skagerak outdoor furniture outright. You can rent instead. A courier delivers the item to your address. When you no longer need it or want it, Skagerak takes it back. It’s that simple. If you decide the piece is actually perfect for your needs, you can opt to buy it. The rent you have already paid counts towards the sale price you pay.
The scheme covers both new and used furniture as part of Skagerak leading the way in sustainability. Though there is no charge for normal wear and tear, there is an insurance policy in place to cover more serious accidental damage.

If you decide to return an item, Skagerak’s craftworkers restore it. They then put it back out to be rented by the next person, with your chapter now part of its history.

Skagerak Products that Lead The Way in Sustainability

Basically, if it is possible to make something mainly from wood, Skagerak probably makes it. The range goes across the board from salad servers and the Skagerak tray through outdoor furniture such as the Skagerak bench and table to high-end indoor units like the Skagerrak desk.

At the small end, there are mirrors, lanterns, coat hangers, and coat racks. In the middle, storage boxes, a range of stools, trays, and shelves. At the larger end, garden benches, tables, ordinary chairs, deck chairs and loungers. If you are looking for outdoor comfort, they supply cushions to soften the wooden seats; if you need shade, there are umbrellas too. In short: think wood, think comfort; and you are just about there once you also add the essential accessories.

Sustainability in Care and Repair

Accidents happen, but as part of Skagerak leading the way in sustainability, it covers you for damage too. The company supplies guides on the care and maintenance of all its goods to make sure you get the maximum imaginable life out of each piece. There is also a range of care products to keep the wood in tiptop condition. Skagerak also has an extensive spare part service. A broken slat or a missing screw shouldn’t spell the end of life for a piece of furniture. If Skagerak made it, those minor repairs are easy.

Jesper Panduro, Direktør, Skagerak Olson and Baker - Designer & Contemporary Sofas, Furniture - Olson and Baker showcases original designs from authentic, designer brands. Buy contemporary furniture, lighting, storage, sofas & chairs at Olson + Baker.

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