Dodds & Shute: A platform is changing the design industry forever

"We started using our business as a case study for sustainable change in 2017 - We are driven by the idea that we can instigate real change in the design industry"

An interview with Stefan Dodds and Nick Shute, founders of Dodds & Shute

dodds & shute
© Dodds & Shute - The Department Store Office in Brixton | Photography by James Jones

Author: House of Eden

The founders of Dodds & Shute are aiming to bring sustainable design products to the public. Stefan Dodds and Nick Shute founded Dodds & Shute in 2015 - a procurement and consulting company for sustainable furniture for architects and interior designers.

All of their suppliers are subject to a strict sustainability review and the results are transparently shown on their platform as well as in a Sustainability Study . In addition, the design consultants determine the CO2 footprint of their own projects in order to take respective measures for reduction.

In an interview with Haus von Eden, the two creatives explain how even as a small company they believe that positive actions can have a powerful ripple effect and spread far in order to reach collective change.

© Dodds & Shute | Photography by Beth Crockatt

Dodds & Shute's sustainability check sheds a new light on the furniture supply chain

We felt that we had to lead by example in the Design industry and that it would take people in our position asking difficult questions and acting upon this information to try and influence wider change . The essence of the audit was to try and bring new information to light and analyse manufacturers in a way that isn’t currently done in our industry which we felt was essential to better understand our supply chain.

There is currently so much unknown in our industry about what makes a company ethical or responsible so rather than simply take a company at their word we now have the data that enables us to compare how manufacturers perform in the field of sustainability.

The assessment of the supply chain is intended as a case study to create a ripple effect of change

We started using our business as a case study for sustainable change in 2017. and we are driven by the idea that we can instigate real change in the design industry. Whilst we are a small company we believe that positive actions can have a powerful ripple effect and spread far. The more our efforts are recognised the more pressure it puts on other businesses to also transform their ways. We also believe that the collective influence of small and medium-sized enterprises is enormous. SME’s represent 99% of all businesses in the UK and EU, so as a collective we can be incredibly transformational.

© Dodds & Shute - Birch Hotel in Cheshunt Hertfordshire | Photography by Adam Firman

Swedish furniture companies have sustainability at the core of their DNA

Swedish companies scored incredibly well and from our research it is clear that sustainability is core to their DNA and a building block of their company, rather than a hastily worded hollow policy we might see from some other companies. Whilst immediate correlations can’t always be drawn between local manufacturing and sustainability it is something of particular importance to us and we are passionate about supporting.

Manufacturing locally has all sorts of benefits, from supporting the local community and economy, ensuring valuable trade skills aren't lost and stricter government regulation ensures strong labour welfare, working conditions, minimum wage and equality. It costs more to manufacture locally but the wider benefits are huge so more should be done to celebrate and promote these companies over others that seek out higher profit margins by sourcing cheap labour abroad.

© Dodds & Shute - Sustainability Report

In the future, companies are expected to act transparently

I hope that what they realise is that expectations are shifting and that their businesses will face calls to deal more transparently. There is demand for a different type of information that previously wasn’t a requirement such a shere goods are made, what sustainable materials are used, what processes, what chemicals, how much recycled content and so on.

The most disappointing thing we found out was the reluctance of a fewcompanies to engage with our survey, and how many companies out there don’t even have a sustainability policy. However there were so many positive things that we learned of the passions of small business owners that are going above and beyond what is expected of them to innovate in their field.

The design industry as a pioneer in terms of sustainable and social practices

Whilst our industry is not as harmful a polluter as the fashion industry we can’t help but draw comparisons between the two as there are shared issues with excessive consumption and obsession with trends that needs to be addressed. Clients are spending significant sums on designer items and the least they should expect is that care and consideration has gone into how, where and why something gets made. We are a luxury industry and for the prices being charged there is no excuse for us all not to do better.

© Dodds & Shute - Score Seven Dials Restaurant London | Photography by Andy Stagg Studio

Consumers are even less conscious

In terms of consumer behavior, I think it is quite slow moving at the moment as there is less awareness around this then other aspects of consumer life such as food, fashion, automobiles, beauty, energy. People at the moment care more about what they put in their bodies or put on their bodies but there is a slow but growing awareness of the things that we put in our homes. I expect this to really accelerate in the coming years.

Dodds & Shute has some exciting plans for the future

There are some exciting things that we have in the pipeline. We are beginning to partner with some particularly ambitious clients that want to adopt our metrics for the sustainable procurement of hotels and large offices. We are also working on a calculation for a sustainable index to rank each of our projects and would like offer some sort of financial incentive to encourage clients to improve the score of their project. We are also compiling a list of harmful materials and processes that are still prevalent in our industry that we would like to petition major retailers and architecture firms to pledge to boycott.

Thank you for the interview, Nick and Stefan 

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