Brand’s Strategic Initiative, Design with Environment in Mind, Honoured for Harnessing the Creative Design Process for Environmental Good

(May 7, 2020 —  London, UK) A proven leader in sustainable manufacturing, Humanscale is an honouree of Fast Company’s 2020 World Changing Ideas Awards which commend the businesses, policies, projects, and concepts that work to flatten the curve when it comes to the climate crisis as well as social injustice and economic inequality around the world. Design with Environment in Mind, Humanscale’s comprehensive initiative, ensures the company’s robust sustainability philosophy is deeply embedded in the research and design process for all of its products. A panel of esteemed designers, venture capitalists, thinkers, social entrepreneurs and Fast Company editors awarded the programme as a finalist in the Art & Design category as it showcases how design can be a powerful tool to off-set environmental footprints.

Humanscale’s Net Positive philosophy drives the company to consider how it can have a positive impact through its products. To achieve innovation that is both useful and sustainable, the team is constantly challenging themselves to rethink the way it operates. For example, Humanscale’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Jane Abernethy, recently challenged the Humanscale Design Studio to explore a new way to design a stool — one of the simplest pieces of furniture — by using three different sustainable approaches as the inspiration for the design: biomimicry, circular economy and biofabrication. Designers held educational sessions that explored each approach which resulted in original prototypes: stool inspired by the structure and functionality of a deep-sea sponge, a stool made entirely of materials classified as waste, and lastly, a stool comprised of grown materials, mycelium.

In 2019 Humanscale partnered with ARUP, MIT SHINE (Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sustainability and Health Initiative for NetPositive Enterprise), Novità Communications, NextWave Plastics and Stickbulb to create an immersive exhibit called RECKONstruct, which premiered as part of the XXII International Exhibition of La Triennale di Milano, “Broken Nature.”  The SHINE team evaluated the sustainability of all three Humanscale stool designs using a comprehensive Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). This confirmed and quantified land, climate, water, and energy impacts, among others, from materials sourcing to transportation to manufacturing to actual use.

This case study reflects Humanscale’s overarching design philosophy; when developing a new product for market, it assesses the impact of its entire lifespan. The team checks the design against its sustainability principles at regular intervals to ensure they are being upheld. Furthermore, Humanscale continues to invest in healthier materials by working with its full-time material scientist to oversee its efforts, third-party auditors to ensure accuracy and a toxicologist to review the results. As competitors continue to explain why material transparency is not possible, Humanscale is an example that it can be done. Over 90% of its first-tier suppliers (by spending) have begun working with the company to improve material transparency. Customers can now look for third-party accredited product labels that disclose exactly what they are made of. As of December 2018, Humanscale published 13 Declare labels and 21 Health Product Declarations. This represented 60% of all Declare labels and 54% of HPDs that existed across the entire furniture industry.

“Our environmental philosophy informs decisions across the company, from design & engineering to marketing and operations, and even the suppliers and third parties we partner with,” says Jane Abernethy, Humanscale’s Chief Sustainability Officer. “By sharing our explorations and learnings from our programme, Design with the Environment in Mind, we hope to inspire other manufacturers to operate under higher standards and to lead with true purpose, creating products that bring real value and are in the best interest of all stakeholders and the planet.”

Stephanie Mehta, Editor-in-Chief of Fast Company echoes this sentiment: “There seems no better time to recognise organisations that are using their ingenuity, resources, and, in some cases, their scale to tackle society’s biggest problems. Our journalists, under the leadership of senior editor Morgan Clendaniel, have uncovered some of the smartest and most inspiring projects of the year.”

Humanscale will be included in Fast Company’s May/June issue alongside other innovative companies that offer promising solutions to grave global challenges.

About Humanscale

Humanscale is the leading designer and manufacturer of high-performance ergonomic products that improve the health and comfort of work life. Through leveraging new technology in functional yet minimal designs, Humanscale transforms traditional offices into active, intelligent workspaces. Committed to making a net-positive impact on the earth as well as their customers, Humanscale offers award-winning products designed with a focus on function, simplicity and longevity.

About the World Changing Ideas Awards

World Changing Ideas is one of Fast Company’s major annual awards programmes and is focussed on social good, seeking to elevate finished products and brave concepts that make the world better. A panel of judges from across sectors choose winners, finalists, and honourable mentions based on feasibility and the potential for impact. With a goal of awarding ingenuity and fostering innovation, Fast Company draws attention to ideas with great potential and helps them expand their reach to inspire more people to start working on solving the problems that affect us all.