26/10/2023 • 7 min read

Haworth Sets Emissions Reduction Targets

SBTi validates Haworth’s near-term and net-zero targets

by Alex Przybyla

Haworth reaches a major milestone

Climate change is an urgent global challenge that requires coordinated action. In a major step toward this global, coordinated action, the Paris Accords set climate targets adopted by 195 signatories – almost every nation on Earth. The worst impacts of climate change may yet be mitigated – if the ambitious climate targets of the Paris Accords are achieved.  

The situation is urgent. ‘It is clear that climate change, unequivocally caused by human activities, is already upon us,’ said Jim Skea, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Many impacts of climate change ‘already touch people’s lives directly’. But recent reports, Skea adds, provide a ‘critical message of hope… we, humans, do have the agency to avoid the worst impacts of climate change and shape our future on this planet.’

The situation is dire, but it is not one of despair. What we do from this point on matters. The solution yet lies in our hands – and, guided by organisations like the Science Based Targets initiative, everyone has a role to play. 

What is the Science Based Targets initiative?

The Paris Accords consider climate change at a global level, setting targets for nations. The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) helps companies and organisations to convert those global objectives into clear, measurable targets that align with the necessary ambition to mitigate climate change.

Based on guidelines and tools for near-term and net-zero target setting from SBTi, companies first assess their overall corporate footprint to establish a baseline. Next, they identify emission hotspots and evaluate decarbonisation levers. Finally, they develop targets to reduce emissions in both their own operations and along their upstream and downstream supply chain until a specified target year. These targets are subsequently validated by SBTi if planned decarbonisation levels are in line with climate science.

The initiative is rapidly gaining steam; over 6,000 organisations around the world are already working with SBTi. Haworth is proud to be among them – and on October 26th, we officially reach a new milestone: both our near-term and our net-zero targets have been validated by SBTi.

Haworth’s SBTi-validated net-zero goals are an industry first

Haworth is proud to be the first company in our industry with SBTi-validated net-zero targets; this result is the culmination of years of work. 

Our carbon accountability efforts include near-term and long-term (or net-zero) targets. 

In the near-term (by 2030), we have committed to reduce

operational emissions by 60% &

supply chain emissions by 42%

(compared to 2021 levels). 

In the long-term (by 2050), we have committed to reduce both

operational and

supply chain emissions by 90%

(compared to 2021 levels). 

Haworth and SBTi forged a close working relationship

SBTi was meticulous as they assessed Haworth’s submission; the Haworth sustainability team was pleased with the partnership. ‘[SBTi] were very thorough – they had good questions,’ said Susanne Schliehe-Diecks, Sustainability Specialist for Europe.

‘SBTi’s expectation is that we are constantly improving data accuracy,’ added Jessica Karp, Sustainability Manager for Haworth International. ‘This confirmed that they are the right partner for our climate journey – the attention they put into every step of the process demonstrates how seriously they take their mission.’ 

Challenges and opportunities identified during the process

Haworth is the largest workplace brand in the Haworth Group, a curated portfolio of the finest brands that furnish the most desirable spaces in the world. Coordinating with many stakeholders is always a challenge – but ultimately it proved to be a fruitful process. ‘Everyone made extra time in their daily schedules to prioritise this,’ Susanne said. And working toward a common goal built unity; our sustainability goals are now aligned across the Haworth brands. ‘For some of the brands, this was a new field,’ said Jessica. ‘They still decided to join us on this journey.’

The process also highlighted an opportunity to consolidate our data – and fill in gaps. For example, while Haworth had already established data tracking and monitoring systems for our 12 Haworth manufacturing facilities, our SBTi journey expanded our scope across the entire brand family – adding showrooms, warehouses, and additional manufacturing sites. The list now includes over 180 locations across the globe. With this expanded data, we will have greater transparency, better understand our total global footprint, and coordinate strategies across all our production sites, showrooms and warehouses. 

A third challenge we identified is ongoing. Much of our supply chain emissions data comes from secondary sources, such as databases that estimate emissions based on general emissions factors. ‘This is 90% of our emissions – and it’s not all within our own hands,’ Jessica said. ‘We have to be aware of our supply chain complexity – and we must work closely with suppliers, collaborating to get that data.’ 

In the next section, we’ll look at how this work has already affected product development.

Haworth Cardigan Lounge™

Check out Haworth Cardigan lounge – a major milestone in our circular design journey.

Applying the work to product development

This process has already made a tangible impact on our product development. Emissions hot spots identified through our SBTi journey have broadened our existing product-level assessments for determining embodied carbon.

Our product-level emissions reduction strategies include: 

  • Sourcing materials with higher recycled content, e.g., metals and plastics.
  • Exploring alternative materials with lower embodied carbon (such as the biomass-balanced foam used in Haworth Cardigan).
  • Developing knock-down solutions (to decarbonise shipping).
  • Designing light-weight products, focusing on the essentials from a material perspective.

Applying our knowledge to Haworth Cardigan

The above list directly influenced the design process for the Haworth Cardigan lounge chair. Haworth Cardigan has been streamlined to only the essential components, resulting in a lightweight solution. We maximised recycled material content wherever possible. And Haworth Cardigan’s foam is produced using a biomass-balanced process, which replaces traditional fossil fuel-based energy sources with biological fuel sources during production. Biomass-balanced foam reduces embodied carbon in the foam production process by 80%.

The work paid off: Haworth Cardigan contains the least embodied carbon in our lounge portfolio.

End of life planning prepares products for second lives

The SBTi journey emphasised the impact of end-of-life processes on supply chain emissions. Many furniture pieces end up in landfill at the end of their functional lives. As we move toward a circular economy, products should be equipped for second lives (and beyond), preventing them from ending up in landfills. Second life options include:

  • Take back programs
  • Repair and refurbishment initiatives
  • Resale on the secondhand market
  • Donation
  • Recycling (external or internal)

Possibilities for a second life must be built into products during the design and development phase. This includes selecting high quality materials so that products last as long as possible; replacing permanent bondings such as glue with mechanical, reversible bondings such as screws; using recyclable materials; and designing for easy disassembly and repair.

Haworth International is currently running a pilot program to establish second-life programs across our many markets. Second-life programs will remain a key part of our emissions reduction efforts in the years to come. 

Second life programs and circularity in product design

We discuss circularity with Haworth International’s Bernardo Silva, who is overseeing a pilot program analysing Haworth’s second life initiatives across EMEA and AP.

Climate action aligns with Haworth’s values

For seventy-five years, Haworth has been guided by values. We strive to make the world better – this value anchors what we do, especially when it comes to sustainability.

Science-based targets are the next step we’re taking toward making the world better. Having our targets validated by SBTi sends a message to our clients, partners, and stakeholders: Haworth is deeply committed to the decarbonisation of our business.

By validating our goals and announcing them to the public, Haworth makes a sincere commitment to carbon accountability. By having SBTi-validated targets, we pledge ourselves to action.

It's not easy – it never is. But as Dick Haworth says, ‘There’s nothing we’re doing today that we can’t do better.’ While we’re striving to do the best we can today, SBTi will help us ensure that tomorrow we’ll be doing even more. 

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