The European furniture industry – Its recovery towards an innovative, green and circular economy

EESC opinion: The European furniture industry – Its recovery towards an innovative, green and circular economy

This initiative wants to call on the European Commission to provide more integrated strategies for specific economic sectors, coordinating the various policies fields to an ongoing transition of our European economy. To this end, we have chosen the furniture sector to exemplify challenges and opportunities regarding the sector's recovery and green transition to a sustainable and circular economy (bio-economy), its technological transformation, mainly driven by the digitalisation of industrial processes, and the sector's overall target of managing the climate change.

The European furniture industry is, compared with its international competitors, very innovative on both areas products and processes. This intrinsic strength is today challenged by more extrinsic aspects, first and foremost the COVID-19 pandemic but also climate change. Furthermore, aspects as the endangered access to raw materials, the technological transformation and a lack of harmonised legislation are affecting the sector.

The European furniture industry, more than other industries, deals with a number of policy priorities of the European Union. These are namely, 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; progressive work organisations and greening production processes), a deeper harmonisation of the internal market and the possible pioneering role of the sector for a circular economy and green recovery. For all these aspects, there are already examples of innovative concepts and practices. In this respect, the sector is on the right track to contribute to the various policy areas mentioned above.

However, the current pandemic has hit the sector hard and due to its structure, strongly dominated by SMEs, a sound EU-Recovery Plan is crucial for its further survival. The European social partners already started working on suggestions for such a recovery. Additionally, the European Green Deal (EGD) provides a policy framework that needs to be implemented with sector specific actions. In this respect, the opinion could provide not only a concept for the furniture sector's recovery and its specific green transition but also examples on how to combine the various policy levels soundly and consistently, thereby providing a blueprint for other economic sectors, especially because it covers all main aspects dealt with in the EGD.

The European furniture industry is also facing growing international competition. Competitors are catching up technologically and practicing dumping in the field of working conditions.