Header Desktop

Doing Well by Doing Good – Spotlight on Herman Miller and Sustainability


Doing Well by Doing Good – Spotlight on Herman Miller and Sustainability

Gabe Wing, Director,  Safety and Sustainability at Herman Miller shared Herman Miller’s story during a CSR conference hosted by the University of Washington – Tacoma, Center for Leadership & Social Responsibility.

There’s no magic to “Doing Well by Doing Good”

It really doesn’t matter whether you approach sustainability from your values or from your financial goals, you will end up in the same spot.   According to projections, there will be 9 Billion people on earth by 2050.    Resources are becoming increasingly scarce.

Most corporate managers realize sustainability must be somewhere on their agenda according to MIT & Boston Consulting Group Study 

Chapter 1: Business Is Investing More
Competing on Sustainability


Not only that, but the study goes on to demonstrate that companies that use sustainability from an innovation perspective are doing better – from a financial perspective.  Doing sustainability well makes more money.

When you look at sustainability, it’s not just about you, the company.  Sustainability of businesses includes employees and suppliers.  In Herman Miller’s case, their employee footprint is twice their own.  Their supply chain is four times larger.

And that’s not all:

  • 99% of their clients ask them something about the environment
  • 23% place their performance in this area as one of the top 3 selection criteria when choosing a vendor
  • You need to be authentic
  • You need to be transparent

The bottom line is every company needs to be doing something.

A Closer Look at What Herman Miller is Doing

Sustainability Program:  “Earth Right”  Guiding Principals at Herman Miller

  • Mimic Nature – Processes and Products need to be based on and mimic nature.
  • Instill a sense of “materials are so valuable that no one will want to waste them” across your network.

Herman Miller has lined up their  6,000 employees, 1,000 suppliers, customers and stakeholders around this principal.

Three Sustainability “Earth Right” Areas of Focus:

 1.    Zero Waste

Waste at Herman Miller used to be 13,500 tons annually.
….Now it is less than 300 Tons as of last year.

  • Three sites are at zero landfill today;
  • Recycling program generated $2.5M dollars last year


This is not just zero landfill – but zero waste and that includes waste into the air and water.

Herman Miller asks these questions:

  • “How do we manage water resources in a way that is environmentally friendly/
  • How can we grow food on properties we own?
  • How can we use less lawn to conserve water?
  • Can they design buildings in a way to reduce energy intensity?”

…In a way that is:

  • Is it Good for Business
  • Is it Good for the Bottom Line
  • Is it Good for the Environment

 Herman Miller’s  goal is 50% reduction 

2.  Eco-Inspired Design

Chemicals – Herman Miller is looking at the chemicals going into their products and asking these questions?

  • Are they save for people?
  • Are they save for the environment?
  • Are they releasing harmful gases?

…and they are reaching out to all their suppliers to screen out chemicals that they don’t want in their products.
Companies, like Google, for example are demanding that certain chemicals be removed from products or they will not buy them.

90% of used office furniture ultimately ends up in a landfill

from landfills to raw material for the next product is sustainable design

End of Life Management – End of Life Management focuses on what you do when products wear out.  What do they do with them?

The goal at Herman Miller is to take back 125,000 tons of retired products each year.  And, they plan to do that by leveraging materials that can be reused at end of life.

New Federal Legislation Requirements are being put in place to encourage to do the same.

Herman Miller’s commitment is to have 100% of their supply chain focused on and agreeing to support these goals.    For example, materials that consume the most amounts of resources are aluminum and textiles.

Herman Miller is working with their suppliers to build plans to get better together.

3.  Inspire employees
Herman Miller must inspire their employees if they going to achieve these goals.     As an example, simply by charging water with ozone, they can have a cleaning process that completely eliminates additional chemical treatments.  Herman Miller has adopted this new process, which cleans all bacteria, to clean all of their sites.


Another example can be seen in a recently opened “green building”.

The  building quickly became

infested with paper wasps

impacting clients and employees.



Honey Bees Herman Miller Building


So, What did those creative employees do?

Well, they did some research and learned that the wasps would leave if they added honey bees. 

So, they added honey bees to the grounds and got rid of the paper wasps.

A side benefit is the honey bees are pollinating the wild flowers and making honey.

every client and visitor to the facility receives a bottle of honey that was made on location.

According to Gabe, “Every one of us has these abilities to make the best choices for our company and environment”.   We know we can bring about this change – we’ve done it at Herman Miller and know of other companies doing it.”

We couldn’t agree more. Well done Merman Miller!
PS – We love honey 🙂

More information about the MIT Sloan Management Review and The Boston Consulting Group study can be found at:  https://sloanreview.mit.edu/reports/sustainability-innovation/

About Herman Miller

Herman Miller is a recognized innovator in contemporary interior furnishings, solutions for healthcare environments, and related technologies and services.  Read more at:   https://www.hermanmiller.com/about-us/who-is-herman-miller/our-story.html

About GivingTrax

GivingTrax helps brands manage and share corporate philanthropy, community engagement, employee giving, cause marketing and CSR marketing.