From circular furniture to greener energy: Nowy Styl takes important steps

Nowy Styl is one of the largest office furniture manufacturers in Europe and has been committed to sustainability for many years. Last year the company achieved level 3 on the CO2 Performance Ladder, but plans for a certificate at level 4 or 5 are already being made. ‘Sustainability is a continuous process. Tomorrow must be better than today.’

Earlier this year, Nowy Styl received a gold medal from EcoVadis. This independent auditor evaluates and assesses the CSR efforts of more than 25,000 companies, divided into four categories: human and employee rights, environment, ethics and sustainable procurement. With the gold medal, Nowy Styl is one of the top 2 percent of companies assessed by EcoVadis.

It illustrates the company's sustainable ambitions, says Patrick van Dommelen (managing director): ‘We have considered it an important subject for years and are investigating all possible ways to get started with it.’

Sustainable office design

For example, circularity is an important part of the contract that Nowy Styl concluded with Rijkswaterstaat in 2017. Since then, the company has been responsible for the entire office design of Rijkswaterstaat, from desk to chair. ‘We are jointly investigating how we can organise this as sustainably as possible and keep the furniture in the chain for as long as possible,’ says Van Dommelen. ‘For example, we focus on repairs, reuse of materials and a modular structure of the furniture, so that defective parts can be easily replaced.’

Collecting and structuring data

Making its own business operations more sustainable has also been an important agenda item for Nowy Styl for years. The CO2 Performance Ladder turned out to be a handy way to get started. ‘It is a great way to take a critical look at your own business operations and to map out your CO2 footprint,’ says Van Dommelen.

Nowy Styl enlisted the help of advisor Martin Vos, who has been guiding companies for years in obtaining their certificate on the CO2 Performance Ladder. Because Nowy Styl is an international company (and a large organisation), it was initially a challenge to collect and structure all the necessary data, he says: ‘It’s quite a search at the beginning. But the more often you report on your carbon footprint, the easier it becomes.’

From coal to biomass

At Nowy Styl, by far the largest CO2 impact was found to be in the electricity consumption of the production locations in Poland (44.74 percent). In Poland, the vast majority of electricity is still generated in coal and lignite plants. And with some 40 coal and lignite plants in operation, the Polish energy sector is one of the most polluting in Europe.

In other words: Nowy Styl was able to achieve an enormous amount of sustainable profit by switching to green energy in Poland. That is where it initially set its sights, but that turned out to be quite difficult. The CO2 Performance Ladder requires that the green electricity that a company purchases is also generated in the same country. However, switching to green energy in Poland is easier said than done. ‘The coal sector is an important part of the economy and provides an enormous amount of employment,’ says Vos. ‘As a company, you deviate from the norm if you want to reduce the use of coal. That was a slow process.’

Still, Nowy Styl managed to do just that. In 2020, 3,000 megawatt hours of green power was purchased, generated from biomass flows. This year, that was increased to 7,700 megawatt hours, about 30 percent of the total energy consumption of the production facilities. Although biomass is not the ideal sustainable energy source, it is a major step forward. In Poland, the wind and solar energy sector is still in its infancy.

Fly less

Meanwhile, Nowy Styl also made strides in other areas. ‘The greener the electricity use in Poland, the more space is freed up to shift the focus to other things,’ says Vos. ‘Take, for example, the flight movements within the company. That is only 1.14 percent of the total CO2 footprint, but because Nowy Styl is such a large company, there is still quite a lot of CO2 emissions associated with it. In the long run, it is therefore also important to get started with that.’

The corona crisis took a big step in the right direction in that regard. The number of air travel by Nowy Styl decreased by fifty percent in 2020 compared to the previous year. ‘The circumstances naturally made that happen,’ says Van Dommelen. ‘But it did enable us to gain more experience in this area and to better organise things like video conferencing.’

Stimulating electric driving

In addition, Nowy Styl is committed to making its vehicle fleet more sustainable (0.42 percent of the total CO2 footprint) and the electricity consumption of its Dutch offices (0.23 percent of the total CO2 footprint). For example, the showroom in Amersfoort will switch completely to green electricity next year. Employees are also encouraged to opt for an electric car. ‘They receive a discount on the purchase or lease, so that it becomes more financially attractive to drive electrically,’ says Van Dommelen. ‘In addition, we also ensure that there are enough charging stations at our offices.’

More ambitious objective?

With the above measures, Nowy Styl hopes to achieve a CO2 reduction of 2.1 percent every year. By 2025, the company's CO2 emissions must be reduced by 15 percent. Vos explains how Nowy Styl arrived at that target: ‘You first map out the CO2 footprint and look at where the most CO2 impact is. You then determine feasible measures that can be taken in that area and calculate the impact of those measures on your CO2 footprint. That is where your objective comes from.’

But Vos and Van Dommelen both expect Nowy Styl to adjust the current target soon. Achieving it is going very smoothly. Vos: ‘The objective no longer corresponds to the steps that are currently being taken. I therefore expect that a more ambitious target will be defined shortly.’

A continuous process

Van Dommelen agrees and also expects Nowy Styl to go for a certificate at level 4 or 5 of the CO2 Performance Ladder in the future. ‘The level 3 certificate showed us that we are on the right track, but also that we are a long way from there. Sustainability is a continuous process and we believe it is important to constantly improve. Tomorrow must be better than today.’