Talking Point: Can we really source sustainable interiors?

Sustainable interiors

Sustainable interiors

With more hotels moving towards sustainable practice, ethical tourism and environmentally friendly sourcing, it is important to maintain a comprehensive approach to environmentalism, says Liam O’Donnell, director of Valdivian Furniture.

It can often be tricky to maintain a legitimate sustainable stance when dealing with suppliers and sourcing, creating supply chain complexities and weakening the green hotel ethos. Whilst the establishment goals may be centred around ethical ideals, these can become diluted when dealing with unsustainable or inherently polluting suppliers. In particular, hotel interiors and furniture adds to these issues as manufacturers often place sustainability as a secondary consideration - potentially leading to the use of unsustainable raw materials, single-use packaging and damaging chemicals.

Ultimately, this requires hospitality furniture manufacturers to carefully evaluate each stage of their supply chain in order to guarantee sustainable practice from the wood they use, to the packaging that protects the finished furniture pieces during transportation. Green hotels can then look for a number of key signs that demonstrate the ethicality of the furniture they purchase, thus placing sustainable practice at the core of the hotel offering. This legitimises green practice and ensures that hotel interiors have a deeper meaning. These are some key signs to look out for when considering interior suppliers.

PEFC Certification

PEFC is the world’s largest forest certification system who actively seek to manage global wood sourcing in order to cope with material resource challenges. The non-profit, non-governmental organisation is dedicated to promoting good practice in wood-sourcing whilst adhering to the highest ecological, social and ethical standards. The certification system operates at multiple levels of society, including communities, small forest owners, governments and businesses to deliver sustainable practice. Membership demonstrates ethical sourcing standards and is regularly informed and reevaluated by stakeholders, allowing PEFC to consistently adhere to environmental and societal changes. Many committed environmentally conscious hospitality manufacturers will use PEFC certified woods and will list this on their website or product catalogues. This offers a chance for hotels to source high-spec, on trend furniture pieces that support the eco mission.


When contemplating interior options it is worth considering a supplier that offers rubberwood furnishings. This is typically known as an ‘environmentally friendly’ wood and is usually obtained from pará rubber trees that have already served a useful function. These trees are first used to produce latex, during which their sap is extracted. After this use, the trees can then serve another purpose and are particularly suitable for furniture production. The wood offers a practical alternative to more unsustainably produced woods and is flexible, strong, resistant to bacteria and fungus, compatible with industrial production methods and suitable for producing high quality furniture. As well as serving multiple uses, the rubber wood trees are replanted after use whilst many other trees are felled, providing an opportunity to ease pressure on the intensive manufacturing of other woods. So, when considering furniture manufacturers, choosing a supplier that offers rubber wood products can cement environmental ideals whilst ensuring furnishings are both high quality and aesthetically pleasing.

Eco Fabrics

When considering upholstery fabrics, durability, resilience and aesthetics are placed as a first consideration with the use of harsh chemicals, synthetic materials and unsustainable production methods being placed as an afterthought. This can undermine efforts to use sustainably sourced woods for interiors and limit eco objectives. To ensure that furnishings are environmentally friendly, seek out manufacturers that offer sustainable upholstery options alongside certified woods - this will often be stated on a manufacturers website and during initial consultations.

When refurbishing a space or opening a new establishment, these are just a few factors that can be considered to ensure that environmental objectives are maintained.

Liam O’Donnell is the director of Valdivian Furniture, a British furniture manufacturer that specialises in bespoke, hand crafted contract furniture. Liam has deep rooted personal interest in environmental issues and the company places sustainability at the core of their ethos. He is a highly experienced wood machinist and specialist joiner which translates into the company’s meticulous and careful approach to furniture production. Find out more at:

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