NEW YORK—Humanscale, the leading manufacturer of ergonomic tools for the workspace, announced several new sustainability initiatives that aid in its mission to create a net positive impact on the earth. As the first company to achieve full Living Product Challenge certification with not one, but two products, Humanscale takes sustainability seriously. Never complacent, Humanscale is taking on the Net Positive Project. It also aims to be the first manufacturer in the industry to have Health Product Declarations for all products. Humanscale is also announcing a partnership with WeSpire to provide each employee with content and inspiration to take action and impact social and environmental outcomes beyond the workplace. Humanscale is hosting an Earth Day event in their New Jersey manufacturing facility to demonstrate its commitment to sustainable design and manufacturing and to educate the local community.
Over five years ago, Humanscale Founder and CEO Robert King hired Sustainability Officer Jane Abernethy to transform Humanscale’s sustainability program into a globally recognized model of excellence. The two work hand in hand to establish the tangible ways Humanscale can make a restorative impact on the environment and inspire others to do the same. King comments, “Being a net positive manufacturer is not only about reducing harm, but about actively making a positive impact on our communities and the environment. Abernethy adds, “We want factories to be like trees and companies to be like a forest. A tree’s job is to grow and thrive. It uses some resources, but it gives back more than it takes.”
Living Product Challenge
Just last year, Humanscale became the first ever company to achieve full Living Product Challenge certification with not one, but two products. This new certification created by the International Living Future Institute sets the most rigorous standards for sustainable manufacturing and design. With a special focus on products, the Living Product Challenge draws on the ideas of biomimicry and biophilia, and asserts that Living Products create habitats, build soil, improve quality of life and provide inspiration for personal, political and economic change. To achieve the rigorous standards set by the Challenge, Abernethy and her staff made significant changes to Humanscale’s manufacturing facilities, a project many years in the making, implementing solar panels and a rainwater capture system to create their own energy and limit water usage. The team also had to study the lifecycle of each material and ingredient found in every part and component of Humanscale’s products and find alternative materials or methods of production if anything was deemed harmful to people or to the environment. As a result, two Humanscale products—the Float table, a height-adjustable desk, and the Diffrient Smart task chair—are now to be classified as “Living Products.”
Net Positive Project
With the belief that achieving a net-zero impact, a frequently cited sustainability goal for many companies, does not go far enough, Humanscale is one of the founding members of the Net Positive Project. Advocating for a world where companies drive financial success and create “net positive” impacts by putting more into society, the environment, and the global economy than they take out, the Net Positive Project is bringing sustainability leaders across industries together to promote a net positive impact as a worthy and achievable goal. Pooling knowledge and resources, each of these industry leaders aims to work together to create a healthier environment for all.
Health Product Declarations
Humanscale invests time and energy in materials and health research and is actively working to reduce packaging, emissions, and energy use. Under the leadership of King and Abernethy, Humanscale is committed to sourcing healthy, non-toxic materials for all products and is advocating for transparency in product materials, compelling other manufacturers to do the same. One of the company’s primary goals for the coming year is to ensure that its lighting offerings contain zero red-list (harmful) materials. To support this goal, Abernethy has recently signed onto the board of the HPD Collaborative (Health Product Declaration Collaborative), an organization that shares this mission and brings together like-minded representatives from across the industry to promote healthy materials and transparency.
King and Abernethy have long been leading the sustainability movement at Humanscale, but the effort is truly companywide. With the aim to achieve a net positive impact factored into every step of the design and manufacturing process, it follows that every employee across the company can do their part. Thus, it was a natural step when the company partnered with WeSpire, an employee engagement platform that enables companies and their employees to pursue social impact programs. Under King and Abernethy’s leadership, Humanscale has designated interdepartmental “Sustainability Champions” to lead in these efforts. They’ll be tapping into WeSpire’s employee engagement sustainability program, which will provide each employee with content and inspiration to take action and impact social and environmental outcomes beyond the workplace. WeSpire also works to ensure all employees know what they can do to help achieve company directives, supporting their own well-being as well as the company mission.
Earth Day Event
On April 22, Humanscale will put its words into action and is inviting the local community to come together for an Earth Day event at its Piscataway, N.J. facility. The activations will include a factory tour, in which Humanscale representatives will demonstrate how sustainability is built into the company’s manufacturing processes. Highlights along the tour will include stops at the solar panel junction boxes, where visitors can learn about the factory’s solar power, the material collection bins, where representatives will explain the process of waste diversion, and the foam machine, offering an example of the company’s efforts to conserve water. In addition to the factory tour, visitors will see a sustainability presentation that highlights Humanscale environmental initiatives. The presentation is an opportunity to learn about the process behind achieving Living Product Challenge certification, powering a factory with solar power, manufacturing with captured rainwater and limiting parts and resources in the design process. The activations will also include an overview of Humanscale’s work with the World Wildlife Fund, combined with an endangered species display and information about the local bee population. Fun hand printing activities invite children to learn that in addition to reducing their footprint, they can give back to the environment too. They’ll learn how to make a net positive contribution to the earth. Children will leave with a handprint to take home and a packet of wildflower seeds to support local bee populations.
In an age when every company has a sustainability page on their website and greenwashing is common, Humanscale reminds consumers that the importance is not what a company says about sustainability, it’s what they’re actually doing. The company is working to develop the tools and resources to make manufacturing a sustainable and healthy enterprise and sets the bar for others in the industry to follow suit. It is also spreading the message that sustainability in design no longer asks companies to put environmental concerns above economic growth. The increase in both sustainability efforts and company growth at Humanscale makes it clear that the two missions can work hand in hand.