On 15 June 2022, the European Economic and Social Committee adopted an own-initiative opinion on the European furniture industry's recovery towards an innovative, green and circular economy. The opinion calls on the European Commission to provide more integrated strategies for specific economic sectors, coordinating the various policy fields into an ongoing transition of the European economy.
The furniture sector was chosen to exemplify the challenges and opportunities for the sector's recovery and green transition to a sustainable and circular economy (bio-economy), its technological transformation (driven mainly by the digitalisation of industrial processes) and its overall target of managing climate change.
Compared with its international competitors, the European furniture industry is very innovative in terms of both products and processes. This intrinsic strength is now being challenged by more extrinsic aspects, first and foremost the COVID-19 pandemic but also climate change. Furthermore, aspects such as uncertain access to raw materials, the technological transformation and a lack of harmonised legislation are also affecting the sector.
More than other industries, the European furniture industry deals with a number of EU policy priorities, specifically:
- a safe raw material basis (forestry and other materials),
- sustainable and socially fair European and international value chains,
- the sound implementation of new technologies in its production processes (new skills; greening production processes),
- deeper harmonisation of the internal market, and
- the possibility that the sector could be a trailblazer for a circular economy and green recovery.
There are already examples of innovative concepts and practices for all these aspects, and the sector is on the right track to contribute to the various policy areas mentioned above.
However, the pandemic has hit the sector hard. Due to its structure, which is strongly dominated by SMEs, a sound EU Recovery Plan is crucial for its survival. The European social partners have already started working on suggestions for this recovery. Additionally, the European Green Deal provides a policy framework that needs to be implemented by means of sector specific measures.
The opinion could provide a concept for the furniture sector's recovery and green transition, as well as examples of how to combine the various policy levels soundly and consistently, providing a blueprint for other economic sectors.