05/07/2024 • 7 min read

Circularity in Practice: The Story of Haworth Cardigan

Our most sustainable lounge chair

by Haworth, Inc.

There is no natural finish line when it comes to sustainability. Products can always be made better. There’s always a new material, technique, or process. This is exciting, as well as daunting. It means the story won’t ever be over. There will always be another chapter—another product, another process. 

Admittedly, this also means that no solution will be perfect—but in the climate crisis, perfect can become the enemy of the good. Anybody waiting around for something perfect will be waiting a long time. There’s no way around it—creating a clean economy will be a long journey. The most crucial step is always the next one. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t take a moment to acknowledge the steps we’ve taken so far.  

Taking a Moment to Celebrate Haworth Cardigan

Haworth Cardigan is a milestone worth celebrating. With our knowledge and resources today, it is the most circular lounge chair we can make. Material by material, process by process, we are proud of what we’ve accomplished with this chair.  

The Circular Economy is one of Haworth’s 2025 Commitments. Our goal is for 100% of our new products to be designed using circular design principles. We aim to use the healthiest materials available as we make each product; we want each product to be a beloved, helpful companion while it is with you; and we strive to provide the most sustainable options for the end of each product's useful life.

A Product with “No Leftovers”

Renowned designer Patricia Urquiola describes Haworth Cardigan as “a product without any kind of leftovers.” Patricia sees this lounge chair as one more stone placed on the long path of our sustainability journey. This concept of having "no leftovers" is most realized in Haworth Cardigan's 3D knit-to-fit fabric.

Philosopher Laozi wrote, "Good walking leaves no track behind.” Our goal as a company and as a global society is to achieve circularity in our products and processes. Circular products will leave no waste in their wake. Societally, we are not there yet, though products like Haworth Cardigan take us one step closer.

Haworth Cardigan is our most sustainable lounge product yet. The chair consists of a steel frame and legs, a swath of knit fabric, a plastic seat shell, a foam seat pad, and six metal screws. We asked our Sustainability Manager, Jessica Karp, to tell us more about how Haworth Cardigan implements circular design principles into each component.

No Glue

Adhesives were the first theme Jessica addressed. “We have eliminated any glues on Haworth Cardigan,” Jessica said, describing it as "a first for our lounge portfolio, so far." All bondings are reversible. The chair is assembled using just 6 screws—and it takes only about 10 minutes to put together. As a bonus, that means it's also super easy to disassemble.

Knit-to-Fit Fabric Eliminates Production Waste

Haworth Cardigan’s fabric is produced using a 3D knitting technique. “There’s no cutting or sewing in the process,” Jessica said. “It’s made for the exact dimensions of the lounge chair, which means there’s no waste.” This knit-to-fit process aligns with the ideal Patricia Urquiola described as “a product without any leftovers.”

Our Corporate Social Responsibility Report

Haworth works to make the world better. In our annual CSR, we detail our progress toward sustainability goals and share stories about our people, the circular economy, and our operational performance.

Biomass-Balanced Foam

The production of Haworth Cardigan's seat cushion is an exciting first. Cardigan uses biomass-balanced foam, which means that biomass (organic matter used as fuel) is added to the raw material pool of resources going into the foam's production process. This is a first for Haworth products—to have a product that supports the reduction of fossil-based feedstocks through the use of biomass, like food waste.

While the foam itself is materially identical to foam produced using fossil fuels, Haworth and our customers can account for the
"greening" of the raw materials used to fuel the machinery in the production process. Through the biomass-balanced approach, a
chain of custody certification confirms that 100% of the fuel material, or feedstock, added is from biomass sources.

This process reduces the chair's total embodied carbon by approximately 11%. With a carbon footprint of 87.4 kg CO2 e, Haworth Cardigan’s carbon impact is the lowest of all our lounge chairs.

Recycled and Recyclable Materials

In circular product design terms, recycling has 2 core pillars. They concern a product's beginning and end, the first and last chapters.

First, recycled materials are incorporated into the product. Working with trusted suppliers, we source components made of recycled rather than virgin raw materials. This ensures that what a product takes from the world has a positive impact, reusing materials that would otherwise go to waste. Haworth Cardigan’s knit is made of 100% recycled polyester. The chair’s back and seat are crafted from 91 recycled plastic bottles. These bottles are transformed into yarn, which is used to knit the chair covers.

Second, recyclable materials are concerned with what a product returns to the world after use. Recyclable materials allow the product to re-enter circularity when its lifecycle is done. For Haworth products, we expect that this will be many years down the line. However, this stage will arrive for every product at some point. Sourcing recyclable components means a product won’t end up in a landfill. This ensures that what the product gives back to the world can be reused in another circular product. Haworth Cardigan’s steel frame is fully recyclable. The plastic seat shell is made of polypropylene, a commonly recycled plastic with a well-established recycling pipeline.    

The Journey to Our Customers: Packaging and Shipping

A portion of a product's carbon impact lies in the journey it takes to get to our customers. For a product that requires shipping, this impact is unavoidable. The best we can do now is minimize that impact using thoughtful design. We minimized the logistics impact for Haworth Cardigan by considering packing methods and packaging materials.

Haworth Cardigan ships unassembled. Its box is shrunk to the size of its largest single component: the steel frame and legs. The other components are arranged to fit within the frame. Minimizing the box size means more boxes fit inside containers and onto trucks. Compared to traditional lounge chairs, which are shipped fully or mostly assembled, Haworth Cardigan’s box is much smaller—in fact, it is the smallest packed lounge chair in our portfolio. Based on the standard comparison of a full truckload, carbon emissions from Haworth Cardigan’s transportation can be up to 3 times lower than a comparable lounge chair.

The packaging materials have also been considered. Too often, a product made with sustainable materials arrives wrapped in a bundle of single-use packaging, going against its own environmental story. Haworth Cardigan uses only cardboard in its packaging—no single-use plastics are employed, and the cardboard is fully recyclable and made of 100% recycled materials.

Product End of Life and Disassembly

Jessica explained that part of circularity is thinking through the end of a product’s life before the lifecycle even begins. First, we want to extend the life of a product for as long as possible; this is achieved by making each part easily replaceable. “It’s possible to repair or replace the wearing parts easily,” Jessica said. At the end of the product lifecycle, Haworth Cardigan can be disassembled as quickly as it was put together, separating into individual components in just 10 minutes.

What’s Next?

Globally, the route for recycling foam is not as clear-cut as the route for metal or plastic. Polyester fabric, in general, can only be recycled so many times. These two issues will need societal development; there is no consistent, global path for circularity. Biomass-balanced foam is a wonderful innovation; removing 80% of embodied carbon for an individual material is a huge accomplishment.

As of today, Haworth Cardigan Lounge is the most circular lounge chair we can make. It represents a significant achievement in sustainable design, and its innovative features signal progress toward a greener future. We look forward to building upon this success as we continue our journey toward sustainability.

We’re Working to Make the World Better

Find out more about Haworth’s commitment to sustainability and a circular economy in our latest Corporate Social Responsibility report.


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