2022 Wood Furniture Scorecard Reveals Promising Trends in Responsible Wood Sourcing

Consumers are speaking up and companies are listening

One of the greatest  threats to forests  is environmentally harmful and unsustainable logging practices — including illegal logging, which is an epidemic in some parts of the world. The furniture industry – the third biggest user of wood after construction and paper — loves wood, adds the highest value to this resource, and has a special responsibility to protect forests and, to avoid wood products from illegal or irresponsible sources. 

Logging does not have to lead to deforestation or forest degradation; responsible forest management can preserve water quality, soil health, biological diversity, and overall ecosystem functions. When you buy from companies that source their wood responsibly, specifically in ways that positively impact forests, you hold companies accountable for the way that they source wood and ensure that you are not contributing to global deforestation.  

More and more, consumers are speaking up and companies are listening. That is clear from the results of the 5th installment of the Wood Furniture Scorecard, a joint initiative with the Sustainable Furnishings Council. The Scorecard ranks leading North American retailers on their wood sourcing policies and practices and can help you determine which companies you should buy from in order to protect the world’s forests and the species that call them home. 

This year, of the 127 companies assessed, 14 earned Top Scores, 26 earned High Scores, and one company earned Most Improved.  A newcomer to the Wood Furniture Scorecard, Urban Natural Home  topped the list with a score of 31 out of a possible 35 points. Cisco Home and Model No. Furniture tied for second place, with both companies scoring 30 points. 

The High Scorers are led by Loose Parts, followed by Badcock Home Furniture & More , and Chairish. The Most Improved retailer is American Freight, a company that increased its 2021 score by 13 points. Learn more about our methodology HERE

Why Sourcing Wood Responsibly Matters 

We depend on forests as sources of timber used in furniture and many other products we use in our daily lives. But our reliance goes much deeper than this. Forests are vital for water, wildlife and plant species, climate and so much more.  

Tree roots and leaves slow runoff to allow absorption of rainwater into the soil, where it nourishes plants, replenishes streams, and is stored as groundwater for future use. Evaporation from forests contributes to the formation of rain clouds, creating a more stable rain cycle, which is important for agriculture. This is key for the continued water security of nearby communities and cities. 

Brazillian Tapir
The Brazillian tapir, one of the largest mammals found in the Amazon, relies on the rainforest for habitat. Credit: Nick Athanas

Forests are crucial for the regulation of climate. Trees and shrubs absorb carbon dioxide and store it in their trunks, roots, leaves, and the soil itself. And when trees are cut or forests are cleared but they also release much of their stored carbon back into the atmosphere. Currently, deforestation accounts for about 12% of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions — a massive and avoidable contribution to rapidly accelerating climate change. 

Forests also harbor much of the planet’s biodiversity, and tropical rainforests are particularly rich, containing roughly half of the Earth’s plant and animal species. Currently, about 13 million hectares of tropical forest are cut down each year — an area the size of England.  

Sourcing Responsibly is Good Business 

Sourcing wood responsibly is a great way to expand business and manage risk. It is the best way to avoid wood from illegal and other controversial sources. Under the U.S. Lacey Act, companies can face criminal or civil penalties if they are caught trading in wood that has been illegally logged in the country of origin.  

Additionally, research shows that consumers care about the environment and that they will pay a premium for products that align with their values. In fact, 97% of respondents in the aforementioned survey say they are interested or very interested in buying environmentally safe home furnishings. A key finding was that respondents state their willingness to pay up to 5-10% more for furnishings they consider eco-friendly. Responsible wood sourcing thus offers furnishings businesses opportunities for growth and increased profits, story-telling, and brand enhancement.  

So, How Do Companies Source Wood Responsibly? – What Gets Measured Gets Managed 

First of all, what do we mean by responsible sources? The most obvious example is using wood that is recycled, reclaimed, or salvaged – wood that might otherwise go to waste. However, the supply of wood from such sources is limited. In the end, all wood comes from trees that must be harvested from forests or plantations, and these can be managed more or less responsibly.  

One of the keys is having a Responsible Wood Sourcing Policy, which is much more than a statement of good intentions; it is a formal commitment to take action and a framework for guiding decisions and gauging progress. A robust policy defines the activities that must be undertaken to deliver on the company’s objectives related to responsible sourcing, establishing what is and is not acceptable to personnel responsible for procurement. This is especially effective when combined with goal setting and public reporting of progress against those goals. As we all know, “What gets measured gets managed!” 

Many of our top scorers take this approach to responsible wood sourcing in their policies and reporting. 

Consumers are Calling the Shots 

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the Wood Furniture Scorecard and the progress we’ve seen companies make since its implementation in 2018 is that consumer demand genuinely impacts the decisions that companies make, even ones as big as American Freight, Cisco Home, and William Sonoma.  When we use our voices and vote with our wallets by buying from companies who make responsible choices for forests we send a clear message that we want to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. Forests are critical to so many of earth’s functions and support some of the world’s most iconic and endangered species that need our protection. 

Check out this year’s top scorers to see if your favorite companies made the list and, if not, send them a message to let them know you want them to do better to support healthy sustainable practices.