From the moment the idea for Zanat first slipped into conversation over strong Bosnian coffees and a cool breeze off the Adriatic, the concept for the company has been much more than quality furniture design and production. We imagined a firm that took the same attention to detail that goes into making the perfect joint, and applied it to all aspects of the business in service of improving not only our customers’ homes but also their world. We call this practice Universal Sustainability, because we want the effect of every significant action that we as a business to be sustainable. In other words, we’d like to see “Corporate Social Responsibility” taken to the next level.
The Human Element
We believe that what we do will be “universally” sustainable if the effects of our actions on our entire ecosystem—including humans and their communities, be they local or global—serve as improvements to that ecosystem in both the short and long-term. With that in mind, we ask ourselves not only what effect our actions will have on the physical environment, but also on other forces and systems that affect the quality of life for individual people and communities. We want our actions to contribute to and facilitate sustainable socioeconomic development.
At Zanat, we practice what we preach in part by creating jobs for craftsman and university graduates, offering continuous training to all employees, and paying better-than-average living wages. By training our staff for greater opportunities, and paying our workers what they’re worth—not simply what we could get away with—we ensure that we not only have the best craftsmen and women creating our products, but that our entire community benefits as well. Our “living” wages don’t force workers to scrape by. They allow families to invest in themselves, putting children in school and books on shelves, fixing up homes and purchasing useful technology, and ensuring access to healthcare. We are also committed to serve as a marketing and knowledge-transfer platform for smaller craftsman and producers with outstanding products and business ethics, but who don’t have access to capital or knowhow to export; by doing this we will be correcting well-established market and government failures. All of these benefits guarantee that with each person we employ—directly or indirectly--the region as a whole improves its prospects. And in a region only two decades removed from a brutal war, combating a nearly 30 percent unemployment rate with jobs that can support whole families means a more secure world overall.
What’s more, our unique hand-carving techniques are undoubtedly a defining characteristic of our local Bosnian community’s cultural heritage—the recent nomination of this craft for the UNESCO World Intangible Cultural Heritage List testifies to its importance—and through our efforts to integrate these techniques into modern design we are not only able to create better jobs, we are helping preserve the community’s traditions and promoting a design trend that puts human welfare center stage.
Direct Impact on the Environment
Of course, any effort to support the communities we live in must be grounded in a commitment to minimize direct impact on the physical environment that supports us all. Universal Sustainability in this regard means several concrete things:
- Responsible Sourcing
o We get our wood from Bosnian forests, which are renowned as some of the most well-managed in the world. The government is so protective of its natural resources that several hardwood species are protected by laws making it illegal to export unfinished products.
o Our cherry and walnut lumber comes exclusively from retired orchard trees, which are replaced by farmers as needed.
o Finishes and upholstery products are sourced from some of Europe’s top companies, all of which adhere to strict EU standards on chemical production, storage, and transfer.
- Long Product Life Cycle
o Our products are made to be of heirloom quality and hopefully passed on from generation to generation. This drastically longer life cycle compared to some other furniture products and the fact that they are primarily made of a natural, recyclable and biodegradable material, wood, substantially reduces the environmental impact.
- Energy Efficiency
o Our factory is heated exclusively with excess wood and—due to thoughtful construction—requires no cooling in the summer months. We use energy efficient machinery and transportation solutions whenever possible.
- Zero Wood Waste
o All excess shavings and pieces cut too small to be made into useful products are put to use heating our factory during the winter.
- Carbon Neutrality
o While due to reasons indicated above our carbon footprint is quite low, our goal is to offset any inefficiencies with investments inside and outside the company to become completely carbon neutral as soon as possible.
Leading by Example
We are not naïve so much to think that our company alone can change the world, but we are optimistic enough to believe that if we can prove that the way we do business works—that it is sustainable—others will see the potential and follow our lead and change the way they do business. In the end, Universal Sustainability is a simple concept: look into the most basic aspects of your business and ensure that you are proud of their impact on the company, the customer, and the world. We are proud of what we do at Zanat, and we have confidence that we can inspire others to do the same.