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We've been writing about the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) in Environmental Building News since the organization was created in 1993. We've watched as FSC pushed the mainstream forest products industry toward more responsible forestry practices even as that industry fought to prevent or slow the adoption of the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED Rating system because it awarded points for use of FSC-certified wood exclusively. And we've continued to recognize FSC-certified wood products through EBN product reviews and listings in our GreenSpec Directory.

One of my frustrations with FSC-certified products has long been that they almost always involve an upcharge over standard non-FSC-certified products. It's great that Marvin Windows or Armstrong Flooring offers FSC-certified products, but because the FSC wood is an option--a fairly expensive option--relatively little ends up getting specified. The manufacturer gets the kudos for offering green products, but may not end up having to purchase that much FSC-certified wood, because not that many customers are calling for it. I've long hoped that companies would make FSC-certified wood standard across their product lines.

Well, that has arrived with contract furniture manufacturer Knoll. The company announced that, with just a few exceptions, effective December 1, 2009, it began providing FSC-certified wood without asking, at no surcharge, and at standard lead times on office systems, casegoods, and tables. According to Lou Newett, the environmental, health and safety manager at Knoll, making FSC-certified wood the standard for Knoll products "is part of a continuous improvement process that recognizes that sustainable wood harvesting can contribute to reversing environmental and social trends--and that Knoll can be part of the solution."

Knoll received FSC chain-of-custody certification for wood products in 2003 and has offered a FSC certification as an option on selected wood product ever since, but providing FSC on nearly all product as a no-cost feature is huge. We believe that this is the first company of this size to make such a commitment to FSC.

Knoll's environmental achievements aren't limited to the source of its wood. Here are a few the company's many other environmental milestones: In 1984, the company set a goal to eliminate VOCs (volatile organic compounds) from all manufacturing operations. In 1986 it pioneered powder-coating for metals, reducing material waste by 80% and VOCs associated with metal coating 99%. In 1993, it became a early partner of EPA's Green Lights initiative (a precursor to Energy Star). By 1996 the company was recycling virtually all scrap metal, cardboard, and paper in its manufacturing facilities. In 1998, it became the first U.S. OEM manufacturer to receive ISO 14000 certification for Environmental Management Systems. In 1999, after years of development, it introduced powder-on-wood finishing technology. In 2002, it received ISO 14001 certification for all manufacturing facilities worldwide. In 2006, it joined the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX)--a first in the contract furniture industry--and the company has consistently exceeded the CCX carbon-reduction targets ever since.

Knoll's FSC standard applies to the AutoStrada, Currents, Dividense Horizon, Equity, Morrison, Reff, and Template open-plan office systems, along with the Graham Collection, Interaction Tables, Magnuson Desks, and Upstart Tables.

For more information:

Knoll, Inc.
East Greenville, Pennsylvania

I invite you to share comments on this blog. Are you aware of other companies that have made FSC-certified wood a standard feature, rather than an add-on option?

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