Sustainable choices made easy – introducing the Product Sustainability Framework

With the soon-to-be-launched Product Sustainability Framework, every single product available at Finnish Design Shop’s online store will receive a sustainability rating. In this story, we delve into why the design world is in dire need of a clear and transparent tool for making sustainable choices.

Saana ja Olli Onnenmaa cushion cover
The Product Sustainability Framework was developed specifically for design products. The Finnish brand Saana ja Olli manufactures its textiles from European hemp fabric.

IN THE WORLD OF DESIGN, sustainability and responsibility have become increasingly prominent topics that gain increasing attention year after year. However, amidst all the beautiful words and good intentions, the demand for concrete actions and hard facts has grown louder. This demand comes not only from conscious consumers but also from professionals working in the design industry.

To address these requests, Finnish Design Shop embarked on a long and ambitious journey to develop the Product Sustainability Framework, a comprehensive tool designed to evaluate the sustainability of every product available in Finnish Design Shop’s online store. But what prompted the development of this framework and why is this kind of tool needed in the first place? Let’s ask from the minds behind the project.

Hanna Mäkelä
Hanna Mäkelä emphasizes that sustainability has already become an integral part of material and product choices, particularly within professional circles.

Hanna Mäkelä, Purchasing and Product Manager:
“Our journey with the Product Sustainability Framework began a couple of years ago as part of our comprehensive sustainability strategy. We recognized the need for a fresh perspective in our industry, where discussions around sustainability often fell short. Our aim was clear: to consider every facet of sustainability and guide suppliers, buyers and consumers towards more sustainable choices.

“We aim to encourage industry players to assess the sustainability of their practices on a broader scale.”

We have designed a sustainability-focused survey for our brands and created a scale through which each respondent will receive a sustainability rating for their products. We aim to encourage industry players to assess the sustainability of their practices on a broader scale, while also highlighting those pioneering brands that have already integrated sustainability into their entire operations. The framework caters not only to professionals but also empowers consumers to make more informed and sustainable choices when browsing through our online store.

This project has been an immensely captivating and enlightening journey for me. It has broadened my perspective on sustainability in ways I hadn’t imagined. Now, as we select new brands and collections, the lens of sustainability has become an integral part of our daily work.”

Nikari furniture
The sustainability rating is examined from perspectives such as climate and environmental impact, circular economy and social responsibility. The Nikari furniture is crafted from certified wood in Finland.
HAY About A Chair AAC22 Eco, lacquered walnut - white
Recycled materials are now making a strong presence in the collections of major brands. HAY recently expanded its About A Chair collection by introducing chairs with recycled plastic seats.
Aino Hieta
“The Product Sustainability Framework is a unique project in the design industry as it evaluates sustainability at the product level rather than the company level,” Aino Hieta says.

Aino Hieta, Sustainability Coordinator:
“With the Product Sustainability Framework, we can provide our customers with transparent sustainability information in an easily understandable format. Every product in our online store will receive a sustainability rating, making it easy to compare the sustainability of different products. Additionally, we provide more detailed information in the product descriptions about the specific sustainability criteria the product meets. Customers will soon be able to filter and sort products based on the sustainability rating.

“Customers will soon be able to filter and sort products based on the sustainability rating.”

The Product Sustainability Framework is a unique project in the design industry as it evaluates sustainability at the product level rather than the company level. The biggest challenge of the project has been to build a product-specific framework that considers companies of all sizes and producing different types of products. Because the framework is product-specific, it needs to accommodate upholstered furniture as well as ceramics, for example. Another challenge is collecting sustainability information from companies – while the topic is considered extremely important, providing thorough responses to our questions takes time.

Manufacturers have embraced the framework well, and both small and large brands have enthusiastically joined in pursuit of a common goal: a more sustainable design industry. The framework has been built to be inclusive and not favor specific sizes or types of brands, so all kinds of brands can perform well in the survey. The questions cover sustainability comprehensively across various areas, highlighting above all the responsible actions of the company.”

Artek Kori table lamp, white
The Product Sustainability Framework will be launched in autumn 2023. Artek’s Kori lamp features a recycled aluminum shade, and all its metal parts are recyclable.
ecoBirdy Kiwi container, ocean
One of the newer pioneers in sustainable design is the Belgian brand ecoBirdy, which produces children’s furniture from recycled plastic.

Facts: Product Sustainability Framework

  • A comprehensive sustainability criteria for design products developed by Finnish Design Shop. 
  • Designed in collaboration with Ethica, an expert organization for circular business design.
  • The sustainability of products has been assessed through collected data from brands, systematically examining various aspects of responsibility, ranging from environmental and climate impacts to circular economy practices and social responsibility.
  • The project started in 2021, and data collection from brands began in the spring of 2023. The sustainability ratings of products will be published on Finnish Design Shop’s online store during Helsinki Design Week in fall 2023.
  • The Product Sustainability Framework is part of Finnish Design Shop’s sustainability strategy.

See also:

• Learn more about the Product Sustainability Framework >
Finnish Design Shop’s sustainability strategy >

Text: Nora Uotila Images: Timo Villanen and manufacturers

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