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Great news! Nation’s #1 furniture retailer banning toxic flame retardant chemicals

via the Chicago Tribune
via the Chicago Tribune

In a win for consumers nationwide and our Mind the Store campaign, Ashley Furniture has announced a timeframe for banning toxic flame retardant chemicals in all of their furniture!

This is a big victory as Ashley is the largest manufacturer and retailer of furniture in the country. This will have a huge impact in driving the furniture sector away from these harmful chemicals.

The story broke in a terrific Chicago Tribune last Friday, after Ashley sent us this updated statement last week:

“Ashley’s upholstered furniture is designed and labeled to comply with California’s TB 117-2013, and we are committed to designing our upholstered furniture with the goal of meeting the requirements of TB-117-2013 without the use of flame retardant chemicals.  To that end, Ashley is pleased to announce that after working closely with our supply chain, upholstered furniture manufactured by or for us as of January 1, 2015, does not use flame retardant chemicals.   In addition, all our upholstered furniture, no matter where it is shipped in the US, includes a label that complies with the requirements of California’s SB-1019.” (emphasis added)

The company has told us this policy applies to all of their furniture, including not only the foam but also the textiles/fabric where flame retardants are also sometimes lurking.

We first wrote to Ashley back in November. In January the Chicago Tribune revealed that Ashley was taking action on flame retardants, but wouldn’t say by when. So our coalition generated thousands of e-mails from concerned families coast to coast urging them to adopt a public timeframe for eliminating these unnecessary harmful chemicals. And we won!

We applaud Ashley for doing what’s right for the health of our families and homes.

A multi-billion dollar market impact 

Ashley Furniture is not only the largest manufacturer and retailer of furniture here in the US, but one of the biggest globally as well.

They are a top-selling furniture store brand to retail partners in over 120 countries worldwide, and licenses its name to some 500 Ashley Furniture HomeStores. In 2013, the company reported a whopping $3.85 billion in sales (!).

See what this expert had to recently say about the impact their actions will have:

“Bob Luedeka, executive director of the Polyurethane Foam Association, said that if industry leader Ashley follows other companies and stops using flame retardants, the chemicals ‘could be a thing of the past in residential furniture.’”

Big retailers helping to drive toxic flame retardants out of furniture

What’s perhaps even more exciting is that Ashley is not alone.  This is a growing trend among the furniture retail sector as many other furniture retailers are also taking action on toxic flame retardants, which I’ve blogged about before.

In January the Chicago Tribune reported that:

Crate and Barrel, Room & Board, and Williams-Sonoma (Pottery Barn, West Elm) all say they have mostly eliminated the chemicals from their products. IKEA, La-Z-Boy, The Futon Shop, Scandinavian Designs and Wal-Mart also said they have told vendors to stop adding flame retardants to furniture.”

And that’s not all.

Since the January Tribune story, Ethan Allen, Restoration Hardware, and Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams have all said their furniture is also now free of toxic flame retardant chemicals. They are also big market players. Restoration Hardware is the #13 largest furniture store in the US, with furniture sales of $890 million in 2012. And they are growing – their sales grew by 29% between 2011 and 2012. Ethan Allen is the #15 largest furniture store in the US, with furniture sales of $703.9 million in 2012. Those two retailers alone have combined furniture sales of over $1.5 billion.

Big office furniture purchasers, like Facebook, Kaiser Permanente, Dignity Health, and Staples, have also signed a pledge to buy office furniture without toxic flame retardants.

This comes at a time when states are taking action on these same chemicals, in the absence of real federal chemical reform. Just last week legislation to restrict toxic flame retardants and get us off the toxic treadmill passed the Washington State House.

What about Target, Costco and Macy’s?

So far, three big retailers have been surprisingly silent about their policies related to flame retardant chemicals: Target, Costco and Macy’s. They are also major retailers of furniture, the fifth, sixth and eighth largest nationwide respectively.

If Ashley and other furniture retailers can do it, Target, Costco and Macy’s can and should as well. Don’t you agree?

We are hopeful these and other big retailers of furniture will join this growing trend in driving the transition away from these polluting chemicals in furniture and other products.

In the meantime, we can all breathe a sigh of relief that safer furniture can now be found at a store near you.

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