Natural Home Interviews Sustainable Furnishings Council President Jeff Hiller

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Photo By Matt Lankes
Jeff Hiller is the president of the Sustainable Furnishings Council (SFC), which aims to improve the furniture industry's materials and manufacturing practices.

Founded in 2006, the Sustainable Furnishings Council (SFC) aims to reduce the furniture industry’s environmental impact by improving materials and manufacturing and piquing consumer interest in healthy furnishings. President Jeff Hiller takes the table.

Who belongs to the SFC?

Our members are progressive, responsible companies who are making legitimate efforts to make a difference. For some, this means paying dues and learning. For others, it means building upon current and past efforts. But all of them share these qualities: an awareness of the issues, a sincere desire to improve and the willingness to put their money where their mouths are in terms of supporting our organizational initiatives.

Tell us about those initiatives.

We want our industry to minimize its negative impact on the environment and human health. This means emitting less carbon through conservation and minimized transportation, reducing the amount of toxic chemicals in manufacturing, and reducing or eliminating product offgassing inside homes. We also regard it as our mandate to develop interest in purchasing sustainable goods at all points in the supply chain.

What is the SFC’s goal?

To build the market for green furnishings, starting with awareness and education at all levels–from raw materials suppliers to consumers–and building brand recognition of our logo as a symbol of assurance.

How does the council meet this goal?

We offer seminars at every major furniture market, ranging from sales training to current developments such as the soon-to-be-enforced legal wood sourcing requirements mandated by the Lacey Act Amendments. We also offer training for manufacturers, designers and retailers in green home furnishings. We just launched a national consumer print campaign featuring celebrity designers associated with sustainable products such as Alexander Julian, Thom Filicia, Angelo Surmelis and Kathy Ireland.

What challenges do you face?

True environmentalists are a small subset of the population, and we had them at the SFC’s inception. Responsible companies and people who want to do the right thing are a far larger group, and reaching them is our emphasis now.

What are you proud of?

We doubled our membership last year to more than 450, including giants like Pottery Barn and Stanley Furniture, and we graduated more than 250 people from the certified training program in its first year. Right now we are in discussions with groups from the World Wildlife Fund to Wal-Mart.

What’s next?

We will continue to guide companies toward improving the sustainability of their operations and help find and create markets for sustainable furnishings. Other organizations such as the U.S. Green Building Council have done yeoman’s work on the construction side; it is our job to ensure that what goes into those buildings is equally sustainable. It is an exciting time. We are on the ground floor of a critically important movement, and we look forward to what lies ahead.