A Partnership for Sustainable Furniture, in Southeast Asia

After the announcement of the ASEAN Furniture Industries Council’s (AFIC) collaboration with the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) in 2021, we have worked together to spread awareness of sustainable furniture here in Southeast Asia and expand the uptake of certification in AFIC member countries.

As a part of our work, AFIC members were introduced to PEFC to enhance future collaboration through a number of key initiatives. AFIC and PEFC collaborated on a survey to understand the current state of awareness of sustainable practices amongst furniture companies and associations in ASEAN, and the willingness to adopt sustainable practices going forward. AFIC invited PEFC to share their insights into forest certification and furniture supply chain sustainability at the ASEAN International Furniture and Furnishings Show in March 2021.

AFIC members also attended Chain of Custody certification training, hosted by PEFC, in December 2021, and were given access to PEFC’s e-training platform ‘PEFC essentials’ to learn how certification could benefit their companies and their partners. This is all a part of our commitment towards promoting sustainable practices within the entire furniture industry supply chain in AFIC member countries, a goal that we will continue to work towards in 2022. 

Similar structures, shared vision

AFIC comprises eight independent national furniture trade associations in the ASEAN region. These national associations represent thousands of furniture companies, from designers to manufacturers, all striving to be more sustainable in their practices. Our mandate at AFIC is both to represent the shared interests of our national organizations and their own local members, and also to help furniture companies across the region raise the bar and achieve together.

This structure is not dissimilar to PEFC, which has national members across the globe. These national members work within local legal and cultural frameworks to advance sustainability certification for forest management and chains of custody. Both PEFC and AFIC understand the challenges of adapting regional goals to national contexts. We also share a commitment to sustainability with PEFC, and are eager to promote the tools for our national members to become more sustainable.

Identifying needs, and meeting them

In 2021, AFIC and PEFC conducted a survey of association members to understand the challenges they face in obtaining and maintaining PEFC certification. Our joint activities in 2022 and beyond will be based on what we learned from this survey, including:

    1. Helping companies build wood sourcing policies. Supply chains in the furniture industry are complex, with a range of sources that are certified and not. We will work with companies across the region to help build robust wood sourcing policies.

    2. Fostering connections with PEFC-certified companies in the region. Networks are fundamental to ensuring the uptake of certification, and the procurement of certified forest materials. Together, PEFC and AFIC will foster a learning journey for companies to build those networks, and to connect with suppliers and producers in the region that have already achieved certification.

    3. Writing and publishing case studies. Many furniture companies in the region have no in-house communications department, and little presence on social media. We will help get their message with case studies that can serve as a guide for other companies seeking to become more sustainable.

    4. Integrated tools for business matching. By linking AFIC’s business matching tool to the PEFC search database, we can make it easier for buyers to identify certified suppliers.

    5. Awareness campaign. In order to communicate about the partnership and raise awareness about AFIC’s commitment to sustainability, PEFC and AFIC will launch a 6-month social media campaign in July. As with the case studies, this campaign will also provide communications resources to AFIC members, and give them a platform to tell their sustainability stories.
    6. Speaking engagements. AFIC will also invite PEFC to speak at seminars (physical or online). Such sessions will address the region’s current market climate from different perspectives, including sustainability. PEFC will be presenting their contributions to sustainability in the ASEAN region, and highlighting local success stories.

Raising the bar, together

Working together with PEFC means collaboration and capacity building that reaches all the way down to the grassroots. In addition to the activities above, PEFC members and representatives in Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Laos are already scheduled to host training sessions on sustainable forest management and chain of custody certifications, in local languages, for national AFIC members.

AFIC members, we encourage you to join us! Whether you are a manufacturer in Indonesia, a designer in Singapore or a contract manufacturer in Thailand, this collaboration means new training and communications resources for you. Reach out to us directly to find out about the next webinar or training session scheduled for your country. Share your story with us and allow us to highlight your company in our social media campaign, or case studies. Connect with PEFC to expand your options for sustainable sourcing.

Together, we can all raise the bar for the furniture industry in the ASEAN region. The future of our companies, our markets, and our forests depends on it.