Lindsey Rendell

March 17, 2022

During 2021, the British Institute of Interior Design (BIID) launched a new Sustainability Strategy as part of its mission to become more environmentally conscious and to encourage the interior design industry to follow suit.

As part of its sustainability mission, the BIID released various documents outlining their Values, Strategic Plan for 2021-2024, and a Code of Conduct. 

In its strategy introduction, the BIID quoted Greta Thunberg, saying “The climate crisis has already been solved. We already have all the facts and solutions. All we have to do is to wake up and change.” 

Speaking on the strategy’s aims, former BIID President Lester Bennett and current President Lindsey Rendell say: “As interior designers, we are part of an industry that accounts for around 40% of the UK’s entire carbon footprint. Through our projects and businesses, small, considered changes could together make a huge positive impact on our environment and emissions.

“The climate emergency is one of the biggest challenges of our time and the BIID is committed to rising to this challenge. Our 2021 strategic aims include: ‘to further embed sustainability into interior design practice’, additionally the new 2021 Code of Conduct includes ‘lessen the environmental impact of your work and promote sustainability’.

“In February 2020, the BIID committed to become net zero by 2050 along with the Construction Industry Council. We believe the BIID can achieve this much sooner and have decided to audit our carbon footprint from April 2021 and aim to achieve net zero by 2023.

“We understand that for most, becoming more sustainable is a journey, one that many of us have been on for years and others may not yet have started. We also recognise that solving the climate crisis requires a collaborative force between clients, designers, suppliers, and governments. We have therefore produced a framework that sets out clear goals and actions, to affect real change at many different levels.

“We hope that by our members and industry partners embracing these goals and actions, we will achieve better design outcomes, increased business opportunities and will build a greater awareness of environmentally and socially positive options for their clients and colleagues.” 

To fulfil some of these promises, the BIID has stated its commitment to Awareness – Knowledge – Promotion: “Build awareness of the Climate Crisis and the positive role members and the industry can have in response.

“Develop knowledge for members on practical measures, actions and policies they can adopt in their businesses and projects – in order to become more environmentally and socially responsible.

“And prioritise promotion, advocation and celebration of technologies, practices, materials, and products that improve sustainable outcomes – by members, the industry and the world.” 

The report also identifies four key areas where members and the industry can create positive impacts. As a framework, they used the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) to set out how the BIID and reaching audience can operate more sustainably, benefit from more considered design, improve their business practices and contribute to the sustainable goals for our planet. 

The first release to members is the BIID Sustainable Specifying Guide. This guide is intended to provide interior designers with broad knowledge of sustainability issues associated with specifying products, materials and technologies. It is a living document written by members, for members. At the end of the day, clients will have the deciding vote, however arming designers with the knowledge and ability to encourage positive choices to minimise impact will have benefits for the project and the wider world. 

This document doesn’t link to specific examples of products or suppliers, instead it gives an overview of supply chain/lifecycle considerations followed by a series of useful questions that can be implemented into conversations with suppliers and project install teams.  

The plan is to then release further information, organise events and create accredited CPDs over the next three years to provide interior designers with the tools, resources, and knowledge to promote, create and implement sustainable and ethical design. 

Some of the questions asked as part of this document include: “Where do products and materials come from and how they are made? What impact do they have on their immediate and wider environment? What is the durability and ‘end of life’ for products and materials?”

An annual review will take place in April this year, with subsequent years receiving updates and new objectives as necessary, announcements of achievements, and where useful provide practical information on how members can also achieve similar goals within their practices. 

“Interior designers have a unique role to play in contributing to a lasting and sustainable design industry,” added Rendell. “The BIID is committed to leading the interior design sector towards more sustainable design practices and as part of that, the BIID Professional Practice Committee researched how we can best assist our members with tools and support to do their work in the most environmentally and socially responsible way. 

“As a result, we launched the BIID three-year sustainability strategy last year. Since then, we have published the first Sustainable Specifying Guide for interior designers, which was created to provide interior designers with a broad knowledge of the sustainability issues associated with specifying products, materials and technologies. 

“We have also increased our CPD content on sustainability topics to help designers to grow their knowledge on this vital and wide-ranging subject. This includes our Sustainability Showcase event on 30th March that will be a full day virtual conference of exciting talks from sustainability experts in the interior design sector. 

“It has never been more important to show our commitment as an industry to sustainable design practices. Our role as designers is to advise our clients on the environmental and social impact of their projects and we hope these BIID initiatives will help designers to do that.”