Times are changing. The consumer culture that has been created in the past decades is under scrutiny because of its severe and damaging impacts on the environment and the planet. FÓLK Reykjavik was founded to drive positive change. I was, probably like most of you, heavily worried about consumption and the impact it has on the environment and our planet. While doing my best to minimize my impacts, I felt I lacked choices of sustainably developed products when I needed to buy things for my home and my lifestyle.
So I became an entrepreneur, and as such, I firmly believe that we have a big role in innovating new processes, changing the way of doing things and speeding up the whole process towards a more sustainable and circular culture. Much can be achieved by applying a sustainable mindset and design thinking to old processes, to find new ways of solving needs and problems and decreasing negative impacts of product development and manufacturing. Change will for sure not happen overnight but if we work on it, we will be able to make changes for the good.
Dialogue with consumers
My background is not from design. I was a sustainability consultant and manager working for companies and within companies and institutions. As time passed, I increasingly recognized that I wanted to practice what I preached, by using the sustainability methodology for positive impact through my own operations and empower designers at the same time.
It has been four great years since I started. It is clear that things take time but a lot of progress has been made both at FÓLK, our suppliers and in terms of awareness in a dialogue with buyers and consumers. It is important to recognize that most consumers are reformists too – they are not looking for new products, they are looking for solutions to solve their problems and increase their quality of life. We can all feel how the trend towards sustainability and circularity of materials is strengthening day by day around the world.
To guide us at FÓLK in our development we put fourth our sustainability and circularity principles four years ago. Designing with strict principles is certainly more complex and time consuming, but the end-product is in my opinion more future proof and longer lasting both for FÓLK, consumers and the planet. Having this strict focus from the beginning of the design phase is extremely important, since research shows that around 80% of the environmental impact of a product is decided upon in the design process. This is also the reason why we need new products and solutions, since many of older products have not had this circularity or sustainability principles implement during their development process and become a burden for our ecosystem in its after life.
FÓLK’s design principles for sustainability and circularity are:
#1 We design products that encourage sustainability and the transition to the circular economy.
#2 Our products are designed and made to last from durable and long-lasting materials.
#3 We only use natural or recyclable materials such as wood, paper, stone, metals and glass for our products. We are examining work with recycled plastic.
#4 We don't use disposable plastic and we abstain from using virgin plastic in our products or packaging.
#5 We encourage transparency in the supply chain. We believe that openness will lead to fairer business practices where the final choice is made by consumers.
#6 We support and engage in UNs Sustainable Development Goals. We have chosen Goal #12 on Responsible consumption and production to be our main inspiration.
Our principles have through four years been tested towards numerous rounds of product development. The principles mean that we have not only had to abandon many good product ideas, but also that we usually work more intensively and for a longer period of time with the suppliers, often pushing them towards new standards or modes of production.
A lot has been accomplished, but the project is just starting, and we will keep on learning and improving our approach and methods. FÓLKs aim is to continue to strengthen as a vehicle of positive change, taking part in supporting the transformation to a circular economy. This task is very important and needs the support over extended periods of time from the whole value chain; designers, suppliers, consumers, companies and design brands. We have no choice but to take part and lead this transformation, because as Bob Dylan phrased it: “…you better start swimmin' Or you'll sink like a stone. For the times they are a-changin'”