By Juergen Riedel, CEO, Ventura
Changing attitudes to the green economy, net zero and sustainability are clearly affecting consumer behaviours, including the continued growth of home energy from renewable sources, environmentally responsible transportation, reducing single use plastics and even a more committed approach to home recycling. How people view the impact of their purchase on the environment is changing how businesses are shaping their goods and services, even now affecting where and how they take a holiday. A Deloitte survey in 2020 reported that 43% of consumers choose brands that have environmentally sustainable practices and values. For Build to Rent developers competing for tenants in an increasingly competitive market, that should be a message ringing like a bell.
At Ventura, we believe the industry has a responsibility to future generations on sustainability and the environment. We are passionate about sustainability and lead the industry in our commitment to reduce our impact on the environment. All of our materials are sustainably sourced.
And walking the walk, we are proud to be the first maker in the UK that will become Cradle to Cradle Certified, a globally recognised measure of safer, more sustainable products made for the circular economy. Our aim is to achieve the certification by the end of this year.
However, the sustainable credentials of a Build to Rent apartment or house haven’t really manifested as a real selling point in the past. Sure, the reputation of the Build to Rent developer as being ethical and having integrity get focused on in the marketing, but the actual sustainable footprint and net zero profile of the fully furnished apartment itself is often not to be seen.
That is for three reasons. Firstly, it is difficult to present a sustainable case for your furniture and furnishings if they are fundamentally not from a sustainable source or from parts of the world where ethics and work practices are unproveable. Secondly, the carbon footprint credentials of furniture and furnishings shipped from the other side of the world really should be questioned. Finally, and often overlooked, is the effect that fire retardants on fabrics and foams may have on human health. While not a sustainability issue per se, increasingly it will be a question that consumers, and tenants will be asking.
Sustainability sells and being able to prove the sustainability credentials on the furniture and furnishings of a fully let flat or apartment could add significant marketing value to the Build to Rent product. Increasingly customers want to make purchasing decisions that align with their personal values and for many that means going green. A 2019 survey led by Hotwire found that 47% of internet users worldwide had ditched products and services from a brand that violated their personal values.
So what is the solution for Build to Rent developers looking to make sustainability a key factor in selling their spaces to live? How can they prove the provenance of their furniture and furnishings? As we have seen with ‘dolphin friendly tuna’ labels, all is often not what it seems.
There are alternatives, and they are readily available. Build to Rent developers have always had choice when it comes to style and design, but increasingly there is choice in the sustainable credentials for the furniture and furnishings.
One answer lies in looking beyond those suppliers that source from halfway around the world. There are more environmentally responsible solutions for furniture and furnishings right on the UK’s doorstep, with provable sources of sustainable resources.
Product designers, manufacturers and brands around the world rely on a transformative pathway for designing and making products with a positive impact on people and planet. From fragrances to flooring, t-shirts and jeans to water bottles and window treatments, thousands of products are Cradle to Cradle Certified. A growing number of brands, organisations and standards also recognise Cradle to Cradle Certified as a preferred product standard for responsible purchasing decisions.
By being a pioneer and investing to adopt this as a baseline standard, it proves that we are designing, creating and reusing our furniture in sustainable ways. To receive Cradle to Cradle Certified certification, products are assessed for environmental and social performance across five critical sustainability categories: material health, material reuse, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship and social fairness. And more than that, when the furniture gets replaced on a three-year cycle, your tenants can be happy that it has already been designed so that components and materials can be reused where possible and recycled when not.
This takes the eco narrative for a place to live far beyond the energy performance of the apartment. It means for the first time that we can say, with authority, that everything inside the flat is also speaking to the same values that your customers are looking for. Your tenants can have confidence that everything in their home has had as little footprint on the planet as possible.
It is worth also saying that this level of sustainability is no longer restricted to boutique suppliers and can now be delivered at scale. We manufacture more than 2,000 of our own designed products in our workshops and have capacity to supply up to 120 fit out projects per week, from studios and apartments to penthouses and show homes.
And finally, on that issue of fire-retardant treatments being considered a hazard to human health. There are high fire resistance fabrics perfectly tailored for Build to Rent apartment furnishing, including natural wool or yarn/fibres produced to European regulations in European mills. There are alternatives available that better fit with the values of the environmentally conscious customer.
We believe that we are pioneers in sustainability for home furniture and furnishing; everything we do is ethical, and everything we make is responsibly sourced and can be reused or recycled. And we can also now prove it.