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Steelcase CSR: On Track to Cut Environmental Footprint 25% by 2012

Steelcase is on track to meet its goal of reducing its environmental footprint 25 percent by 2012, the furniture manufacturer’s 100-year anniversary, according to the company’s 2010 Corporate Sustainability Report.

From 2001 to 2009, Steelcase has globally reduced its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 59 percent, water consumption by 71 percent, waste by 63 percent and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) by 94 percent.

Steelcase voluntarily committed in 2006 to eliminate PVC from its products as part of a larger commitment to identify and eliminate harmful substances. Starting in the summer of 2009, the company began phasing out PVC work-surface edge bands and replacing them with a PVC-free alternative.

Steelcase is now shipping PVC-free edge banding as standard on 12 product lines, using a proprietary polyolefin blend material to replace PVC, which  has been approved by McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC) for use in Cradle to Cradle silver certified products.

The furniture manufacturer also has a packaging strategy that entails reducing or eliminating packaging whenever possible, designing or redesigning products for optimal packaging efficiency, and replacing traditional packaging with better performing sustainable materials.

As an example, Steelcase is using a new packaging material called EcoCradle from Ecovative to ship its Currency ready-to-assemble casegoods. As an early large-scale adopter that helped develop EcoCradle for commercialization, Steelcase is the first in the office furniture industry to use this new packaging.

The material, which replaces polystyrene and other synthetics, is grown not manufactured, says Steelcase. According to the report, mushroom roots bind and transform agricultural byproducts such as cottonseed hulls into packaging components, while using as little as one-tenth of the energy needed to manufacture traditional synthetic packaging. It’s also compostable within 30 to 45 days.

In 2009, Steelcase announced a new Environmental Partnership Program with Institution Recycling Network (IRN). The partnership between Steelcase and IRN matches unneeded office furnishings with non-profit groups around the world.

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