Claims that a product helps the environment are enticing to consumers. In fact, the 2012 Green Home Furnishings Consumer Study found that people may be buying less but they are buying eco-friendly. Now the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued a 314-page update to its Green Guides, which are intended to help eliminate confusion among consumers about “green” marketing claims by requiring marketers and advertisers to use clearer, more detailed language.
The Guides also help marketers avoid making sweeping claims without proof or qualification. With the furniture and bedding industry using an increasing amount of “green” materials – from recycled wood to soy-based polyols – it is essential that you understand how the finished products in your store’s inventory may now be marketed and advertised.
What are Green Guides?
First issued in 1992, the new Green Guides clarify and modify guidance on environmental claims, some of which have become increasingly more common since the last revisions such as carbon offsets, non-toxic claims, and claims that products are made from recyclable or renewable materials. While not enforceable by law, the FTC can take action under the FTC Act if a marketer makes an environmental claim inconsistent with these Green Guides.
Helping you to avoid over-stating the truth
In issuing these Green Guides, the FTC wants to help marketers avoid making sweeping, over-the-top claims that can’t be substantiated. For example, simply stating that a product is “eco-friendly” may be leaving too much up to consumers’ interpretation. The Guides further state that, “Marketers should not state or imply environmental benefits if the benefits are negligible” and clarify what information may be needed to substantiate a claim.
Say, for instance, that a manufacturer increases the recycled content of his product from two to three percent. He then states on his label: “contains 50% more recycled content than before”. While the claim is technically true, it likely gives the false impression that the manufacturer has significantly increased the use of recycled materials.
Some of the Green Guides that may apply to the furniture and bedding industries
• Recycled content: Do you carry reclaimed or recycled wood furniture? For products that contain used, reconditioned or re-manufactured components, the Green Guides state that, “Marketers should make recycled content claims only for materials that have been recovered or diverted from the waste stream during the manufacturing process or after consumer use.” If a product is only partially constructed of recycled content, “Marketers should qualify claims for products made partly from recycled material. For example, “Made from 30% recycled material”. The Green Guides further advise that, “Marketers whose products contain used, reconditioned or re-manufactured components should qualify their recycled content clearly and prominently to avoid deception about its components.”
• Recyclable content: Mattresses are recyclable, right? The recycling language used may depend on your location. A product should not be marketed as “recyclable” unless “it can be collected, separated or otherwise recovered from the waste stream through an established recycling program for reuse, or use in manufacturing or assembling another item.” When recycling facilities are available to at least 60 percent of consumers or communities where the item is sold, marketers can make unqualified recyclable claims. Otherwise, a marketer can state, “This product may not be recyclable in your area.” If recycling facilities for a product are available to only a few consumers, the FDA says a marketer should use stronger qualifying language: “This product is recyclable only in the few communities that have appropriate recycling programs.”
• Made with renewable materials: In its review process, the FTC discovered that consumers often misinterpreted this claim to mean that the product was recyclable, made with recycled content or biodegradable. To minimize the confusion, the Green Guides recommend that marketers “identify the material used clearly and prominently, and explain why it is renewable. For example, “Our flooring is made from 100% bamboo, which grows at the same rate, or faster, than we use it.” By identifying the material used and explaining why it is renewable, the marketer has minimized the risk of unintended claims. New BiOH technology allows our customers to create products with typical levels of renewable content at greater than 50 percent.
• Carbon offsets: It wasn’t all that long ago that the concept of a carbon footprint was foreign to most people. Now most everyone has a general idea of what it means. In its Green Guides, the FDA cautions that marketers should, “have competent and reliable scientific evidence to support carbon offset claims. They should use appropriate accounting methods to ensure they measure emission reductions properly and don’t sell them more than once.”
Preliminary life cycle analysis indicated that manufacturing BiOH polyols requires 60 percent less non-renewable energy and results in less global warming emissions than manufacturing the petroleum polyols we replace. Additionally, for every one million pounds of BiOH polyols used, more than 2200 barrels of crude oil are saved. Considering that the industry uses billions of pounds of petroleum polyols, BiOH polyols can have an impact on using less petroleum.
Last month’s Las Vegas Summer Market was one of the strongest ever! Dozens of mattress and bedding manufacturers debuted new products and innovations. Earth-friendly and consumer-friendly was a theme woven throughout the event, from re-usable mattress shipping cartons to products designed to dramatically enhance the sleep experience. Mattresses that conform to body contours, and new variations on sleep products made with gel, continued to be among the hottest trends. Manufacturers are clearly building on the momentum that we saw earlier this year at High Point Market.
We scoured reports from several industry publications to uncover which manufacturers and products had the greatest impact on attendees. We weren’t surprised to discover that several of our customer partners made big impressions. Among them were:
• Comfort Solutions: Emphasized gel, latex and toppers in its expanded features and price points. Its Natural Response collection now has four models, each containing Gel Response latex. The Natural Response Luxury bed features a reversible/removable topper made with gel foam and latex layers. Its iMattress beds feature iFusion gel foam and Gel Response latex.
• Sealy: Introduced a premium pillowtop mattress to its gel memory foam line, the Posturepedic Optimum mattress collection. Sealy also announced the addition of gel foam to its more affordable Sealy Comfort Series Memory foam collection. In addition, you’ll want to watch for new poured gel technology products by Comfort Revolution, Sealy’s specialty sleep partner, to be introduced early next year.
• Serta: Unveiled a new Trump Home mattress collection, which features its proprietary iSeries gel memory technology. It also revealed two new iSeries constructions, one with three layers of gel foams (KoolComfort Memory Foam, Cool Action Gel Energy Foam and Cool Action Gel Memory Foam) and the other with two layers of gel foam.
• Spring Air: Made its World Market Center showroom debut by showcasing its newly acquired Natura World and NexGel product lines.
Consumer demand for better sleep is resulting in skyrocketing interest in gel/memory foam products. Bedding manufacturers are turning to soy-based BiOH polyols because they are made from renewable resources, reduce the need for petroleum-based chemicals, and help create “cool sleep products” that easily fill the needs in today’s bedding marketplace.
After reviewing the 2011 International Sleep Products Association (ISPA) Report, and looking at the more recent March 2012 numbers, we are very optimistic about the state of the U.S. mattress industry. We are particularly encouraged by the numbers related to specialty and non-innerspring mattresses, such as those made with BiOH® polyols. In addition to foam (latex, visco-elastics/memory foam and other foam cares), the non-innerspring category also includes air, hybrid-type flotation ensembles and electric adjustable ensembles.
The 2011 ISPA Reports: “Sales remain below pre-recession levels, and several important head winds still buffet the economy, but consumers are returning to mattress and furniture stores in growing numbers.”
Some figures that popped out at us from the Report:
• U.S. mattress producers shipped 34.9 million units in 2011, an increase of 0.2 percent over 2010; however the value of U.S. mattress shipments increased 7.7 percent in 2011.
• Geographically, the North Central region experienced the largest sales value increase (8.7 percent) as well as the most substantial unit gain (5 percent).
• In the fourth quarter of 2011, domestic mattress shipments were up 15.8 percent.
Our attention was drawn to the specialty mattress category, which appears to be carrying the industry’s recovery. The ISPA reports, “… the dollar value of non-innerspring mattresses increased substantially (29.6 percent) during 2011.” Market share for the non-innerspring segment also improved. The ISPA report says that it accounted for, “20.4 percent of total mattress sales value (compared to 25.2 percent in 2010) and 13.8 percent of units (compared to 11.2 percent in 2010).
How’s this year progressing?
The momentum continues, especially for non-innerspring mattresses. We jumped onto the ISPA’s website to check the numbers for the first quarter of 2012. According to the ISPA’s Bedding Barometer survey results, non-innerspring mattresses held their own against a decline in other segments. From January through March, non-innerspring mattresses experienced a 43.9 percent unit gain vs. a total unit gain of 10.1 percent for all mattress types and foundations; and a 49.4 percent increase in sales value vs. 19.2 percent increase in sales value for all mattress types and foundations.
This demonstrates that innovations in better sleep technology are attracting the attention of American consumers, and a good night’s rest is something that they value.
Today, some marketers suggest that we classify consumers from light green (minimal commitment to sustainability and earth-friendly buying) to dark green (strong commitment). Whatever the shade, being green is more mainstream than ever. How is this trend affecting home furnishings?
Some of the most exciting findings come from the Sustainable Furnishings Council, which has released the top findings from its 2012 Green Home Furnishings Consumer Study. The fourth study of its kind, researchers surveyed 432 female homeowners ranging from ages 30-60 with household incomes more than $50,000 shows.
The survey, conducted by the Sustainable Furnishings Council with the support of furniture company Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, aims to provide trend data on consumer awareness, attitudes and behaviors relating to environmental issues and the home furnishings industry. Among its discoveries:
There is a growing interest in buying green. More than half of the consumers surveyed have purchased green products in a variety of categories. These consumers practice recycling at home and are concerned about a range of environmental issues.
Those who purchased home furnishings in the last year showed twice the interest in green products as those who have not purchased. People may be buying less but they are buying eco-friendly.
In general, consumers will pay a little more for a special feature that is important to them. 67 percent of respondents said that they would pay up to five percent more for green furnishings.
That last bullet point is perhaps one of the most important findings. Consumers will pay extra to buy a green product, especially if it does more than its traditional counterpart. Just as we’ll buy energy efficient brands because they’ll also save us money, when you’re talking with consumers about mattresses and other products with BiOH® polyols, spend ample time discussing the benefits to the consumer – such as better sleep – in addition to the benefits to the environment.
That two-for-one value could easily be the tipping point that results in more sales. Your customers will be excited about sleeping better at night. They’ll also feel good about themselves because they just bought something that helps sustain Mother Earth.
It stands to reason that they will also feel good about you, as a retailer, because you sell these earth-friendly, health-enhancing products and you were knowledgeable about their many layers of benefits.
April 22 will be the 42nd anniversary of Earth Day, a day credited with starting the modern environmental movement. Four decades later, consumers’ interest in products that are kind to Mother Nature has never been stronger. Not only are people more likely to buy eco-friendly goods, many are more inclined to spend their money with businesses that also support this way of life.
Here are five great ways for furniture retailers to take part in Earth Day 2012:
1. Draw attention to your earth-friendly inventory.
• Create Earth Day signs or tags to place on goods made from recycled, reclaimed, organic or sustainable materials, as well as any sourced from local suppliers.
• Ask each employee to pick his/her top three favorites from among the “green” items and sign their name to those tags. This gives those items a personalized staff endorsement.
• Offer your employees an extra incentive for selling those items which they have endorsed.
2. Reward customers for purchasing earth-friendly items.
• The value of the rewards can be scalable depending on the amount of the purchase. Some ideas include:
• Organize a team of employees to help clean a beach or neighborhood, or to plant trees. Wear tee shirts with your business name so that others will notice your involvement.
• Print fliers inviting your customers to join you at the event.
4. Plant a sapling or garden in honor of the employee who sells the most “green” products this month.
• Have a placard made with the employee’s name and the year, to remind employees and customers year round about your commitment to the cause.
5. Partner with a recycling group by serving as a collection site for items such as used cell phones or clothing.
• You will expand your marketing exposure because your business will be advertised by the recycling group as a drop-off point.
Earth Day is a great way to remind your community of your commitment to the environment, and to the health of your neighbors. However you decide to commemorate the day, we hope you also have fun doing it!
We’re looking forward to seeing all of the new things at this month’s High Point Market. This is more than just the largest furnishings industry trade show in the world – it’s always a lot of fun and it is definitely a way to build your business. We are excited to catch up with some of our manufacturers – and we would love to meet new ones!
Let’s get together!
We enjoy helping manufacturers promote BiOH® polyols. We can always come up with something fun and unique to get retailers selling more products made with BiOH®. This photo was taken in the Klaussner Showroom during the last High Point Market. Retailers took photos and played a little Do you KnOH? game about BiOH® during the Klaussner party!
How can we help you? During the 2011 Fall High Point Market, we increased awareness & educated manufacturers & retailers how to sell the benefits of BiOH® polyols through our online retail training course. Since then, Klaussner has had more than 500 of their retailers take the course & will continue to promote BiOH® in its showroom, and make the training available onsite at this month’s Market. You can also view this training here.
Look for the BiOH logo on your map
The Sustainable Furnishings Council, a non-profit balanced coalition of industry players founded to promote sustainable practices among manufacturers, retailers, and consumers will once again hand out High Point Market maps to all attendees. Look for the BiOH® logo next to these names of Council members who also use BiOH® polyols in their foam cushioning:
The SSA is a non-profit advocacy and education association advocating and promoting the full spectrum of new technology bedding using both synthetic and green or sustainable solutions. Cargill Inc, producer of BiOH® polyols, is a full founding member of the SSA’s Environmental & Safety Program/Green Initiative Board of Governors.
Building the foundation for new industry standards
The SSA’s labeling program may one day result in more uniform labeling standards for green manufacturers, and more consistent, industry-wide definitions for what constitutes natural, green and sustainable.
The three-step seals and consumer discloser label tags appear on mattresses from manufacturers who join the program. They help consumers to understand the environmental and safety attributes of participating manufacturers’ products. Specifically, they make it easier for consumers to see at a glance:
• The minimum environmental and safety compliance levels that apply to that particular product.
• The material content by percentage for components in the mattress. Manufacturers certify what natural materials have been used and list those materials by weight. If the manufacturer claims any part of the mattress is organic, it has to substantiate that claim. Periodic product testing authorized by the SSA will help ensure compliance.
So far, products and manufacturers that have earned the SSA’s Environmental & Safety Program Seal of Approval are: Boyd Specialty Sleep, Natura World, Naturepedic and Spring Air International.
Manufacturers pay a fee to the SSA to use the label and seal. There are three different levels of seals that may be used.
To display the Level I seal, a manufacturer must:
• Disclose materials used in construction and percentages of natural/bio-based and/or pre-consumer recycled content if applicable
• Achieve a minimum of 20 percent of natural/biobased or pre-consumer recycled content in component categories of fabric and quilt
• Participate in an annual survey to identify carbon footprint issues and commit to continuous improvement
• Meet all federal safety flammability requirements
• Meet all safety requirements for children’s products if applicable
• Provide a warranty for the product
For the Level II seal, a manufacturer must meet all the requirements of the first threshold and in addition, the products must:
• Disclose materials used in construction and achieve a minimum of 20 percent natural/biobased, pre-consumer recycled content material, and/or steel in component categories of fabric and quilt and 10 percent for core
• Certify the top fabric (closest to consumer during sleep) through either Oeko-Tex Standard 100 or Global Organic Textile Standard
• Flexible polyurethane foam products must achieve CertiPUR-US certification
• Latex foam products must achieve Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certification.
The Level III seal is the highest that can be achieved. To meet the Level III requirements, a manufacturer must comply with the previous two levels’ requirements and:
• Disclose materials used in construction and achieve a minimum of 70 percent of natural/biobased and/or pre-consumer recycled content material in component categories of fabric and quilt
• Disclose materials used in construction and achieve a minimum of 50 percent natural/biobased, pre-consumer recycled and/or steel for core
• Certify the final mattress through Oeko-Tex Standard 100 or Global Organic Textile Standard
• Test the mattress for VOCs emissions
The SSA is currently considering proposals for a Level IV of the program. In addition, the SSA has developed an Environmental Glossary Marketing Guide, available on its website, explaining many definitions and regulations governing the “green” industry.
Tossing and turning, and hot uncomfortable sleep are outdated. They also are unhealthy. One of the most exciting trends discussed at last month’s Las Vegas Market was the public’s growing interest in gel beds and “cool and healthy sleep” bedding products that support a better night’s rest.
Both were heavily referenced during Furniture/Today Executive Editor Dave Perry’s State of the Bedding Industry presentation. Perry had previously predicted that, “Gel beds will be more common in Las Vegas than casino chips” – and he was right! We at BiOH® polyols also are predicting that this trend will take off at a remarkable speed within the specialty sleep category.
Two new BiOH® products for healthier sleep
There are now nearly a dozen gel bedding products on the market from such well-known names as Simmons, Sealy, Kingsdown and Serta. Most, if not all, combine memory foam with gel technology. Now BiOH® is debuting two new products to fill this growing demand: one is a memory foam and the other is a gel.
It’s an exciting new direction for the bedding industry because these products have the strong potential of giving consumers the best sleep of their lives. And just imagine the health and productivity benefits of having millions of well-rested Americans!
We make cool, healthy sleep plus environmental sustainability possible with two brand new products:
• BiOH® polyols renewable urethane gel: Ideal for a host of cool sleep products, this new polyol can produce urethane gel with greater than 90 percent renewable content.
• BiOH® polyols next generation “cool” memory foam: A breakthrough product with more than 50 percent renewable content. This new viscoelastic foam dissipates heat 25 percent faster than comparable memory foams.
Other experts and trend watchers agree that cool sleep technology is creating a new wave of excitement for the industry. To learn more, call 877-765-9246.
These days we are so used to being tired, that most of us hardly remember what it felt like be well rested! Demands on our time – from shift work and family obligations to jet lag and 24-hour business cycles – cut short our sleeping hours. And our stress levels prevent us from enjoying a good quality of sleep once we do finally crawl into bed. It’s no wonder that U.S. retail coffee sales rose 19 percent last year! We are all battling to stay awake.
Jessa Gamble, an award-winning writer and expert on our internal body clocks’ struggle against our urban schedules, describes an interesting study. When people lived without artificial light, they slept twice at night. They slept from 8 p.m. to midnight, had two hours of meditative quiet in bed during which their bodies produced abnormally high levels of prolactin*, then they slept again from 2 a.m. until sunrise.
The study participants reported that they felt they were experiencing true wakefulness for the first time in their lives.
Do your customers want to feel that wide awake tomorrow morning?
The statistics say it all: we’re tired! According to a Gallup poll, three in 10 Americans don’t feel well rested. A Harvard study found that 40 percent of college students feel well rested just two days per week. The most revealing of all: Only about four in 10 people responding to a poll by the National Sleep Foundation said they got a good night’s sleep every night, or almost every night, of the week.
Sell a better night’s sleep
People want better sleep. Their bedding is a means to that end. Your goal is to give them the confidence that what they are buying will help them wake up in the morning feeling more refreshed.
Become a better sleep expert. Earn their trust by giving them other ideas, in addition to their bedding, that might contribute to a better night’s rest. We will continue to provide information on this topic here.
When the conversation turns to bedding, point out that temperature regulation is important to sleep quality. Mattresses, mattress foam toppers and pillows made with the new BiOH® visco polyol provide a cooler, more comfortable sleep. Studies show memory foams produced with this new product dissipate heat more quickly, cooling off 15-40 percent faster than memory foams using infused gel technology. Foams made with BiOH® Polyols are also less sensitive to temperature overall, so they stay softer at cooler temperatures.
Many people overlook some of the most obvious components to a good night’s sleep simply because they don’t know about them. Let’s start a new trend in 2012 of better educated consumers who understand the value of great bedding!
*Prolactin is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland. Prolactin levels fluctuate throughout the day, and are highest during sleep.
Smart interior design can also have low environmental impact. From window shades and blinds to floor coverings, there are many products today made with recycled or sustainable materials.
Here are some of our favorite tips to pass along to customers.
• Certified fair-trade goods: Many are produced by independent worker cooperatives. The emphasis is respect for the environment, gender equity and fair working conditions. You might be surprised to see what can be made from recycled phone books!
• Think durability. Products that last a long time means that fewer will wind up in landfills.
• Choose natural fibers for rugs, linens and other textiles. Today there are a wide range of items to complement just about any décor.
• Hunt for recycled merchandise. Take advantage of someone else’s redecorating plans. Perfectly good lamps, vases and other decorative items can frequently be found in Craig’s List, at garage sales, flea markets and in resale and antique stores.
• Adorn your table with beeswax candles. These aren’t just natural, they actually burn cleaner.
• Refresh walls with low-VOC paints. It’s an easy way to avoid breathing toxic fumes.
• Buy local whenever possible. It cuts down on transportation, which means less use of fuel.
• Look for the green and white “Made with BiOH®” hang tag on furniture. This tag says, “ BiOH polyols are soy-based ingredients that replace a portion of the petroleum materials in foam. They have a smaller environmental impact through lower energy use and a smaller carbon footprint while supporting farmers.”
• Use vintage tableware. This is much easier on the environment than paper plates and plastic utensils.
• Decorate with live potted plants. Research shows that healthy, well-maintained plants improve air quality, brighten people’s moods, and may even help to keep your home at an optimal humidity level.
The BiOH experience offers resources for you to learn and participate in helping communities and the environment. It is brought to you by the BiOH polyols business — a maker of soy-based ingredients for foam. Please explore our site and then share your thoughts with us. We want to hear from you!
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