04/10/2022 • 4 min read

Emeco and the Essence of Sustainable Design

How our brand partner has owned their impact on the planet from the very beginning

by Haworth, Inc.

Begin with what’s left over.
Turn it into what will last.

This is the principle on which American furniture maker Emeco was founded. For Emeco—one of our Haworth Collection partners—owning their impact on the planet is not new—it’s in their DNA.

How It Began: The Original Navy Chair
Back in 1944, fledgling company Emeco was commissioned to create a chair that could be used on US Navy submarines. It had to be lightweight, durable, and non-corrosive to withstand salt water and sea air. With these needs in mind, Emeco created their first Navy chair. At their factory in Hanover, Pennsylvania, Emeco recycled scrap aluminum to turn out chairs so strong they’re guaranteed for life. The timeless, sustainable design of the 1006 Navy chair is still produced today by skilled craftsmen, cutting, bending, stamping, forming, welding, grinding, heat treating, hand brushing, anodizing—and these are just a few of the 77 steps it takes.

But how has Emeco kept their company alive all this time, when their bread and butter was a nearly indestructible chair? They found new markets for the iconic Navy chair in hospitality and social spaces. Hotels, restaurants, cafés, and bars began clamoring for the clean, simple styling and durable, sustainable nature of the Navy chair’s design.

New Designs, New Materials
In the early 2000s, a chance meeting led to a collaboration with designer Philippe Starck in creating a new chair design for the Hudson Hotel in New York City. The partnership has continued over the years, as well as opened doors for Emeco to work with some of the world’s most renowned designers—including Jasper Morrison, Nendo, and Barber & Osgerby—to make new sustainable products that are built to last.

Emeco also took note that there is so much more to reclaim—other than metal. In a 2010 partnership with Coca-Cola, they recreated their signature Navy chair using recycled plastic, rather than metal. Each year now, the 111 Navy chair helps divert millions of waste plastic bottles from landfills and oceans. Embracing continuous innovation, Emeco has also found a way to make this chair even better and more sustainable over the years. Now with only 20% glass fiber, rather than the original 35%, the 111 Navy chair is now lighter, contains more recycled plastic, creates less carbon dioxide (CO2), and offers easier recyclability at the end of its useful life.

Today, Emeco continues their philosophy of sustainable design by exploring and innovating new ways to use consumer and industrial waste and environmentally responsible resources. The result: simple, timeless furniture that sits lightly on the planet.

From recycled metal and plastic to reclaimed and sustainably sourced wood, all Emeco’s product materials have been carefully selected for the least possible environmental impact—and the greatest possible longevity. In fact, around 90% of their entire product range is made from recycled materials.

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“We know we cannot solve all the world’s problems by making chairs. But our goal is to inspire others and set an example for how things can be done more appropriately to solve some of the world’s problems today.”

Alev Oztas

Emeco President & CEO

Preserving Craftsmanship and the Environment
Most of Emeco’s products are produced by hand, with techniques passed down over generations. By manufacturing in the US and sourcing as locally as possible, Emeco helps preserve the skills of its workforce and the craftsmanship of its heritage—supporting the local economy. It also reduces CO2 emissions from transportation.

With their longstanding commitment to sustainability, quality craftsmanship, and the community through design, Emeco is an ideal partner for Haworth and a natural fit for both our corporate social responsibility mission and our brand portfolio—increasing the breadth of choice for hospitality and social spaces, indoors and out. “With our common values, hand-in-hand with Haworth,” says Oztas, “I believe we can reach out to more people, inspire them to run their businesses more sustainably, and add value to clients’ businesses.”

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