The river Ätran winds through the pretty Västra Götaland landscape before flowing into the Kattegatt.
The environment – a natural part of our heritage
The Kinnarps group has always shown a high level of environmental concern. It is part of a corporate culture that has been cultivated ever since founder Jarl Andersson used to make furniture at his own workbench.
We are travelling east from Gothenburg.At the pretty town of Ulricehamn that rises up on the eastern heights of Lake Åsunden, we turn left off Highway 40. Our journey then continues northwards along the leafy Ätrastigen (Ätran trail), or Redväg (Riding Route) as it was called when it was one of Sweden’s most important routes for horse-drawn and foot traffic. This is where Swedish and Danish armies had clashed in the course of history.The River Ätran flows along the route – at times untamed and vigorous, at times calm and still. Many of the names of the places that we pass through are reminders of the past, and there are ancient remains going back to the Stone Age.
After driving a couple of miles through the fertile Swedish countryside we arrive at Kinnarp- Slutarp; previously two little villages, which is now a small community of some 1300 inhabitants. Here – amidst cultivated fields, woods and the Ätran flowing just around the corner – is Kinnarps’ main office as well as one of its three factories.This is where all the company’s furniture is developed, manufactured and tested. It’s also the workplace of Tomas Ekström, Director of Quality and Environment at the Kinnarps group. “It’s obvious that these surroundings affect my work as an environmental manager.
Seeing cows grazing and fields being ploughed and hearing birds chirping outside your office window really brings home to you the significance and impact of your work. I’m sure everyone who works here feels that way.We understand the importance of a living countryside and unpolluted nature for both personal reasons and for humanity as a whole. Kinnarps, founded 65 years ago by Jarl and Evy Andersson, has played an important part in Sweden’sdevelopment from a farming society to an industrial nation.
But the company is also an industry and business pioneer in terms of environmental responsibility.With its origin in the rich soil of Västra Götalandprovince, Kinnarps has anatural environmental concern that has employed careful stewardship of resources from the outset. At the end of the 1950s, for instance, we already began to pack our furniture in blankets that were reused after each delivery.We did this at a time when many believed that disposable packaging and natural resources were inexhaustible.
At an early stage, Evy and Jarl also understood the commercial, practical and environmental benefits of delivering direct to the customer and cutting out the middlemen.That’s why the furniture bus became a familiar sight for customers throughout Sweden after 1959. Kinnarps used it to deliver furniture directly to customers, planning the return route to pick up as many raw materials and return deliveries as possible.And that’s still done today, except that the bus has been replaced by more modern forms of transport. Today it’s called transport and packaging logistics,whereas then it was plain common sense.We are now also one of a few companies in the sector – perhaps even the only one – who is EMASregistered. Kinnarps is dedicated to an approach in which environmental thinking and business go hand in hand. If environmental investments pay off in both the short and long terms, they can be quickly implemented and everyone is keen to follow them up.
A good example is when we started in 1977 to chip and compress all our burnable waste into fuel briquettes that we burned in our own incinerators. Today we use them to heat our factories, adjacent industries, the town’s school, sports hall, bank, retirement home and many private homes in Kinnarp. If they had all been heated with oil instead, they would have consumed 2400m3 of it. So nature escapes being polluted by a whole lot of carbon dioxide. The carbon footprint is certainly a very important topic for Kinnarps. Tomas thinks we need to find a balance between business aspects, our daily environmental work, long-term planning and a visionary approach. Not everyone can have a longterm perspective,but everyone can make a contribution in daily life. Kinnarps’ most effective tool to reduce the greenhouse effect in its daily work is optimal product
development, which means less material consumption, higher utilisation levels, more recycled material and above all furniture with a long life in terms of product quality, form and function. ”In contrast to many of our competitors, we at Kinnarps have taken the strategic decision not to practice carbon offsetting merely to say we are carbon neutral.
Our profound conviction is that our own awareness grows and the environment benefits much more by investing in measures that reduce emissions.” To describe Kinnarps’ environmental concerns while ignoring its ideas of integrated solutions and responsibility would be to skip over the most important aspects. For Kinnarps is one of few players in the industry to assume responsibility for everything from raw materials and production to the delivery and installation of complete furnishing solutions. For our customers this means that Kinnarps can tell them where the material in its furniture comes from, how it handles waste or how much its trucks carry – three key factors that impact the environment. “Yes, to have control over the entire chain as we do is certainly a significant part of our environmental work. So we can guarantee that all our wood comes from carefully monitored or certified forests.
But responsibility for the whole picture also allows us to exert greater pressure on our suppliers than many others in the industry.” Reuse and recycling are self-evident watchwords at Kinnarps. An example is Kinnarps in England who cooperate with the Green Standards organisation that promotes corporate social responsibility. Via Green Standards, Kinnarps donates used furniture to educational projects in several African countries. ”That’s what it ultimately boils down to, the manufacture of high-quality products. Good products are used for a long time and can almost always be reused.A disposable approach has always been alien to Kinnarps,” concludes Tomas.