Meet the Product Sustainability Framework, a pioneering set of sustainability criteria that aims to establish new standards for the entire design industry. Join us in exploring the brand-new sustainability tool and discovering what design professionals have to say about it.
FINNISH DESIGN SHOP’S newly launched Product Sustainability Framework (PSF) was designed to assist both consumers and design professionals in making more responsible purchases.
“Sustainability is a hot topic in our industry, but finding concrete data on it can still be a challenge. The Product Sustainability Framework is our answer to this. It helps consumers make more responsible purchases and also serves as a tool for interior professionals when seeking sustainable design for their projects,” explains Teemu Kiiski, CEO of Finnish Design Shop.
With PSF, every product available in Finnish Design Shop’s online store receives its unique sustainability rating. This rating is determined through a comprehensive assessment, including aspects such as raw material production, climate impact, and social responsibility, all assessed through a questionnaire directed at manufacturers.
“A sustainability assessment tool tailored for design products is a first of its kind and, therefore, sets the standard for the entire design industry. We’ve been developing this tool for over two years in collaboration with product manufacturers. It enables us to present the sustainability efforts of brands in an easily accessible and comparable format,” adds Kiiski.
So far, over 9 000 products from more than a hundred different manufacturers, including Artek, Vitra, Nikari, and Audo Copenhagen, have already received sustainability ratings. The ratings and criteria fulfilled by each product can be viewed on their respective product pages.
Designed for generations to come
The Swiss company Vitra is one of the most well-known and popular brands at Finnish Design Shop. Vitra’s Sustainability Lead, Dominik Schwyter, how do you see the role of the Product Sustainability Framework for consumers?
“Considering the increasing demand for transparency on sustainable consumption, the Product Sustainability Framework is a good tool to help consumers decide on a product based on various sustainability criteria.
Through the extensive evaluation process, the products are subjected to a holistic review to provide the most meaningful picture possible of their sustainability. The development of the framework is therefore a milestone in bringing key sustainability aspects closer to customers and enabling comparability between different products based on their environmental impact.”
How has sustainability influenced or transformed Vitra’s overall production chain? Can you give some examples?
“It is important to highlight that up to 80% of the environmental impact of a product is determined in its design process, according to a Danish study. So, we have implemented a sustainable design guide with the goal of asking the right questions at the right time to find better solutions early in the design process. This will lead to even more sustainable products in the long run. This means, for example, that every new product needs to be easily repairable and recyclable.
“Up to 80% of the environmental impact of a product is determined in its design process.”
Furthermore, we are constantly evaluating our existing product portfolio for improvements because we know that almost 90% of our CO2 footprint comes from the materials we use. For instance, we have switched the plastic parts for a number of our bestselling products to recycled material. Another example is leather, where we have changed from traditional tanning to a veg-tan process.
In procurement, Vitra works with a very local supply chain, with 96% of suppliers based in Europe and almost 50% of them in Germany. We are also constantly improving our infrastructure to reduce the impact on the environment – we have, for example, recently connected the first buildings to the local district heating system. In packaging, we are using recycled cardboard and recycled polyethene bags, leaving away all unnecessary.”
Vitra has set three sustainability goals for 2030. Could you briefly outline them?
“Firstly, we want to reduce our ecological footprint as much as possible while adding as much as possible to the environment and society, so that in the end we have a positive impact on the environment. Secondly, we will follow every product over its entire lifespan, ensuring the longest possible use and facilitating its recycling and disposal. And lastly, we want to make sure that customers will be able to make their purchasing decisions based on detailed information. Initiatives such as PSF are obviously a great support since they help us in looking at things from a customer’s view.”
“PSF helps to make the right choices”
Designer Jenni Roininen, you have been the creative director at the Finnish furniture manufacturer Nikari since 2011. How does sustainability influence your work?
“Sustainability is actually the starting point in my work; I couldn’t justify making products from any other perspective. I believe a designer’s role is to create useful products that bring joy to their owners while following the principles of sustainable development. In addition to the physical form and material choices, the focus of design often includes the entire process, from manufacturing the product to owning, refurbishing, and finally recycling it. The designer’s challenge is how to succeed in this entire chain together with manufacturers, retailers, and consumers.”
Have you witnessed any shifts in sustainability over the course of your career?
“The design process is teamwork among various experts, and a designer’s work involves maintaining a balance between them. This intermediary role has grown during my career, especially in sustainability matters – nowadays, client companies and customers expect that sustainability issues are taken into account in design.
“Nowadays, client companies and customers expect that sustainability issues are taken into account in design.”
Designers also need to be knowledgeable about an increasing number of aspects affecting the product’s lifecycle, including consumption habits, logistics, materials and their environmental impacts, as well as the sustainability of production techniques and locations, and the future prospects of the industry. Design is at the forefront, especially in harnessing recyclability.”
What are your thoughts on the Product Sustainability Framework?
“Tools like these are absolutely crucial. I believe that when the latest information is made available to everyone, it also impacts the work of designers. The product’s lifecycle involves not only the designer and the manufacturer but also the retailer and the end user. PSF, in my opinion, helps each one of us take care of our role in this lifecycle and make the right choices for the environment and sustainability.”
The Product Sustainability Framework was launched on September 14, 2023, in the Helsinki Design Week main exhibition venue. The event featured a panel discussion with:
• Fredrik Paulsen, an acclaimed Swedish designer
• Johanna Vuorio, CEO of Nikari and Woodnotes
• Hanna Neuvo, CEO and co-founder of Design Agency Fyra
• Reetta Noukka, the Chief Operating Officer of Finnish Design Shop
• The discussion was moderated by Anu Ubaud, former Editor-in-Chief of Helsingin Sanomat and co-founder of the creative company United Imaginations
Text: Nora Uotila Illustrations: Oona Mäkelä Photos: Nikari and Vitra