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Better furniture for a better world

Koala is an Aussie furniture company (which in many ways may seem insignificant in the scheme of the world, but in our mind, we all have a role to play in protecting and preserving the place we call home). How do the decisions made at a small workshop in Sydney change the world? What impact can we have? But when we recognise that we’re not just a company, but instead are part of a larger system, we see that we have a huge economic, environmental and social impact. And this is amplified as we continue to grow.
It’s our products: what they’re made of, how they’re made and how they’re disposed of or reused that provides the biggest impact. Knowing this, we’ve been working super hard to ensure that we’re doing the best we can to ensure we’re minimising our footprint.

The main part of this is felt throughout our value chain. So our focus is here; with our supply chain partners.
Here are a few things we’ve done to follow this ethos, while simultaneously working on improving. After all, even the best athletes in the world still need coaches and training. Many things we’re working on remain a work in progress, but we feel we’re on the right track and have a good foundation (and more importantly, the desire to always do better).

Ethical and environmentally friendly supply chain:

Our customers want to know that the products they buy have been made by factories that treat their people well, have safe working conditions and have environmentally friendly operations. We do this is preferring to source locally and also having a high standard when looking for new suppliers. We meet key suppliers and visit their operations. We also screen our suppliers through Sedex – an international organisation that allows suppliers to share their environmental, health and safety, social and their business ethics information with us.
We like being in good company – Sedex have been helping to deliver improvements in responsible and ethical business practices in global supply chains for over a decade working with some of the worlds largest companies. This is particularly important to us as we start selling our products in global markets with high expectations.
The extensive questions we ask of suppliers through Sedex and their sharing of information allows us to understand our suppliers better – what they’re doing well and their challenges. We are using this information to help determine improvements that can be made or potentially suppliers that we should not be working with.

Material sourcing:

We asked hundreds of our customers what they thought we should be doing to improve our sustainability and they said to ensure we are sourcing our raw materials responsibly. And we agree. This is why the foam we buy for our mattresses are Good Environmental Choice (GECA) certified and our sheets are made from TENCEL – one of the most eco materials there are.

Our foundation here is a policy signed off by our two founders that sets minimum standards – what we won’t buy is as important as what we aspire and to buy – as well as our targets for sustainable materials. For example, we will not use conventional cotton as we know the extensive damage this does to the environment. We aim to increase the use of recycled materials in our textiles as this uses less energy and helps create the economy for our materials to be recycled in the first place.

We are trying to know and understand our supply chain from the fibre to the finished product. By asking the right questions, and seeking certification we aim to make products that are the highest quality, give the warm fuzzies of an ethical product and fulfil our positive intentions.

Our koalafied sustainable materials include:



Cotton is a natural, renewable fibre which comes with a number of concerns. Conventional cotton requires a lot of water and pesticide and farmers aren’t always paid fairly. That’s why Koala is committed to not using conventional cotton.

Preferred sustainable sources include:

  • Organic

  • Fairtrade

  • Better Cotton (BCI)

  • Recycled cotton

Tencel and other “Man-made cellulose” materials

Lyocell is a beautiful soft fabric that – when sourced and manufactured responsibly – is one of the most sustainable fabrics. There are challenges in ensuring the wood fibre does not come from ancient and endangered forests which have ensured we are not using with our suppliers and NGO stakeholders.

Preferred sustainable sources include:

  • The fabrics we think are the most sustainable are TENCEL and Monocel

  • We will also keep looking for other sustainable lyocell fabrics that
    – ensure the protection of ancient and endangered forests,
    – use innovative technology to reduce their environmental impact at manufacturing
    – use recycled or alternative environmental fibres (eg agricultural residue)


Polyester is the most common material used in textiles. Koala is a member of the Textile Exchange, which promotes recycled polyester as a preferred sustainable fibre. Switching to recycled materials will reduce the consumption of natural resources, including energy, oil and water, and significantly cuts down on waste to landfill.

Preferred sustainable sources include:

  • Recycled polyester

  • Synthetic materials that assures a reduced environmental impact in their manufacture

Furniture and mattresses


Timber is renewable, natural and not only looks good but feels great in our home. When it is sourced legally from well-managed forests, it’s a sustainable material that we love to work with.

Preferred sustainable sources include:

  • Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) certified timber

  • Are part of a step-wise sustainable program like WWF or Rainforest Alliance

  • Are part of a step-wise sustainable program like WWF or Rainforest Alliance

  • Do not contribute to deforestation: are not from deforestation of a primary forest or a known high conservation value forests

  • Are from recycled, reused or reclaimed timber sources

Paper and cardboard
Packaging is a small percentage of our material use but an area that can have a large impact on the environment and meet customer demands and expectations. We encourage and promote the efficient use of paper & board.

Preferred sustainable sources include:

  • Recyclable materials

  • Recycled materials

  • FSC certified paper and cardboard


Polyurethane foam is one of the most popular materials in mattresses and furniture. It is durable, cost-effective, contains no animal products and is 100% recyclable. But it is derived from petroleum and, if not manufactured properly, can release toxic Volatile Organic Compounds.

Preferred sustainable sources include:

  • decrease the proportion of petroleum-based, non-renewable foam ensuring that these alternatives are sourced sustainably

  • only GECA, CentriPUR or other environmentally or health certified

  • FSC certified paper and cardboard

  • foam that assures a reduced environmental impact in their manufacture through innovative technology or being manufactured under an assured Environmental Management System

  • foam manufactured with green chemistry and low VOC emissions


Production of plastics uses both energy and material resources, and if it is not recycled correctly can be a waste of reusable material and the potential release of pollutants.

We look to minimise these impacts by designing products that optimise durability while using the least possible amount of material overall, as well as more material that is recyclable and comes from recycled sources.
Preferred sustainable sources include:

  • recycled content plastic packaging (rPET, rHDPE)

  • only GECA, CentriPUR or other environmentally or health certified

  • fossil-fuel derived free plastic eg durable or biodegradable bioplastic

Steel and aluminium

Steel and aluminium requires high energy inputs to manufacture. But it is durable and can be infinitely recycled. It is light, but strong, and is easy to maintain. If it has a high recycled content it is a relatively sustainable product.

Recycling metals has many environmental benefits. It diverts them from landfill, reduces the need to extract and manufacture raw materials and contributes to significant savings in greenhouse gas emissions. Recycling steel, for example, uses 75% less energy than making steel from raw materials.

2020 Goal: 25% recycled content
2025 Goal: 50% recycled or certified content

Preferred sustainable sources include:

  • high recycled content

  • raw material certified against Responsible Steel standard, Aluminium Stewardship Initiative

Who are we – we’re a small company that cares. With a mission to disrupt the industry

Koala was founded by two friends from Byron Bay with a singular vision to change the way people buy furniture. They recognised that the experience of buying a mattress from a big box store was awkward and uncomfortable, so they worked together for several months refining their design and building their logistics back-end before launching a mattress-in-a-box. Made in Australia with a four-hour delivery to metropolitan centres and a 120-day trial period. Our research indicates that most millennials move every two-to-three years and as mattresses are bulky and hard to manoeuvre, Koala wanted to introduce a better way to buy furniture. A way that is congruent with the expectations and desires of modern consumers. We’ve since built on our success to offer a bed base, pillows, linens, and our first move out of the bedroom; a sofa.

As a global company, maintaining a sustainable supply chain is incredibly important to Koala.

In just two and a half years of operation, we have moved rapidly to incorporate a range of feedback and have implemented a process towards designing and innovating new products including the adherence to a design scorecard with milestones incorporating sustainability, design thinking workshops and sustainability masterclasses conducted across the business.

Koala has also focused on sustainable raw material sourcing, setting minimum standards and sustainable materials targets. While these initiatives have been critical in honing thinking within the business, we’ve also taken a global approach, by aligning with Textile Exchange, Canopy, GECA, 1% For the Planet, and are also a fur-free retailer.

We maintain an ethical supply chain by visiting and getting to know our key suppliers, while taking a global approach through our interactions with Sedex to respect our global supply chain.

Here at Koala, we recognise that we’re all a community that shares just one beautiful planet. Only by caring, thinking and planning can we protect it — not just for us, but for those that will come after us. Let’s do it right.

The post Better furniture for a better world appeared first on Habitat.

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