Marking EGGER and ForestOne’s launch of what’s set to become the most sustainable laminate flooring in Australia, we sit down with EGGER’s National Sales Manager for Decorative Products for the region to hear about the brand’s devotion to constant improvement, EGGER’s commitment to transparency – and why it’s so important to partner with organisations and brands that share the same sustainability principles.

Tell us about your role with EGGER.

I'm the National Manager for EGGER Decorative Product and although I've been with the company for over four years, I have known EGGER for nearly two decades. It’s a family business with the head office in Austria, in St. Johann in Tirol; we’re celebrating our 60th anniversary this year! EGGER’s been in Australia for over 20 years and ForestOne is the national distributor here for our Decorative Product range.

Has sustainability always been a part of your career trajectory?

From a professional point of view, sustainability really came into focus for me in 2006. At that time I was in charge of the plywood division at a major Australian timber mill and leading their implementation of the GreenStar rating program, as well as the FSC® chain of custody certification. In parallel with that, I did a lot of R&D work with 3rd party suppliers to improve the sustainability outcomes from manufacturing; for example, I led a process improvement project for glue lines, to ensure they had no VOCs and could be used to make ‘’greener’’ indoor furniture.

I continued in this direction through subsequent roles, and when I joined EGGER, my focus on sustainability became even more relevant. One of the reasons I joined EGGER was the fact that they believe in constant improvement and are always exploring ways in which the company can do better – and progress sustainability. Very much in line with my own ideas, EGGER believes that sustainability goes well beyond chain of custody.

How does this comprehensive commitment to sustainability manifest?

Since the very beginning, EGGER has been underpinned by the corporate mission – “more from wood.” It’s a notion that wood is too valuable a resource to waste, and it’s important for us to act sustainably and conserve that resource. That translates into ensuring that all of our wood is 100% locally, legally and sustainably harvested, and into exploring the ways in which we can continue repurposing wood that’s already entered the supply chain, to ensure that the carbon stored in that timber doesn’t go to landfill.

As a result, three decades ago, EGGER started their post-consumer recycling programme. We recycle anything from pallets to furniture, to structural building products, and we put that back into our product.  All of our chipboards are made with 63% of recycled content, with 23% of that repurposed from post-consumer waste.

Alongside the desire to advance our part in the circular economy, transparency is another important pillar of EGGER’s sustainability agenda. This, of course, ties to the idea of constant improvement – our company is by no means perfect, but we believe in being open and honest about what we’re doing right, and where we need to do more work, and where we’re headed.

And where is EGGER headed?

We’re a signatory of both the UN’s Global Impact and the Paris Agreement, and 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) underpin our objectives and aspirations. They include environmental considerations but also – equally as importantly – goals around social work or anti-corruption.

For instance, from a supply chain point of view, we’re planning on having 95% of our most relevant suppliers sign the EGGER Supplier Code of Conduct; and to support sustainable forestry, we're looking to increase the proportion of recycled wood even further, to at least 25% by 2025.

Our goal is also to reduce fossil greenhouse gas emissions by 15% by 2030 compared to 2018 levels, and decrease energy consumption by 10% by 2030. Similarly, in line with our dedication to transparency, we want to increase the percentage of our products holding environmental declarations from 86% to 95% by 2025.

We’re also set to continue our research into alternative, formaldehyde-free binders. We've got an entire R&D department at one of the factories in Europe, where we look at everything from power to water, from glue resin to wood fibre technology, so we can explore improvements to our products in a range of different ways.

ForestOne is EGGER’s partner for distribution, sales and marketing in Australia. Why did you choose to work with them?

In Australia, we partnered with ForestOne in 2019, but the conversations that led up to the collaboration went back to earlier times, when the company was operating under the name Gunnersen.  When ForestOne took over the Gunnersen business, the resulting entity gave us full confidence that we had the right partner for national distribution – and that had a lot to do with the owner Ian Fankhanel’s vision for ForestOne. While the previous owners set the company on the right trajectory from a sustainability point of view with the FSC® (Forest Stewardship Council®) and PEFC™ (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification), Ian had a clear direction of where he wanted to take the new company.

The partnership wasn’t just about bringing the latest in European decorative design to Australia, but also about giving industry professionals here a chance to specify some of the most sustainable products in the world – even though we ship them halfway around the planet, they are still more environmentally friendly when compared to some local products!

It was important for EGGER to find a distributor who would have the sustainability platform to communicate that - and ForestOne have that platform. And then of course, from a business & logistics point of view, they have a national footprint, so we can store products with them in each state, minimising the need for stock movements and transport.

Was it important that EGGER and ForestOne shared similar values, also where sustainability is concerned?

Definitely. For ForestOne, this notion of constant improvement is also key, so it’s great to partner with like-minded businesses and advance along the sustainability journey together.

To give you an example, 79% of EGGER’s business is powered by renewable energy. In the next couple of years we would like to take it up to 85%. Changing any forklifts under eight tonnes to electrical vehicles will be an important part of that. Driven by similar aspirations, ForestOne is also looking at introducing electric forklifts, replacing all of the trucks with the most environmentally friendly models, and switching all of their company cars to hybrids. Another example is the ForestOne head office in Melbourne – it was actually submitted for Sustainability Awards in 2021 because the new design really considers elements like energy use and minimised carbon footprint, and features a range of EGGER products that help deliver those sustainable outcomes!

Not only does this idea of constant improvement apply to ForestOne’s approach to their own operations, but also to their supply partners. There is this innate desire to ensure that people and companies they work with do their part in pushing the progressive environmental agenda forward. That aligns with our values at EGGER and what we do within our own supply chain. That was a big part of the choice for us.