Furniture is an integral part of our daily lives.
Furniture is a way of life. However, we often fail to realize how much it has on the environment.
Phantila Phataraprasit was a keen student of sustainability and wanted to create a brand that she could be proud to support. She co-founded Sabai Design, which is a sustainable furniture company.
This episode features insights from Buffer’s Small Business, Big Lessons podcast episode seven and an unpublished interview. Phantila shares how Sabai got started, how her team embed sustainability in every business practice, as well as how she builds trust and friendship with the Sabai community.
Phantila’s unique experience in sustainability drove her to pursue sustainability. She lived in an eco-lodge her parents had started in Thailand.
This experience taught Phantila how important sustainability is for not only business but also for the preservation of the natural beauty and health of our planet. Phantila has often stated that she will prioritize sustainability over all else and be willing to forgo aesthetic pleasure in order to be sustainable.
This approach wasn’t enough. She was a strong believer in sustainability but wanted to be able to choose the lifestyle she desired, and not be restricted by what is available. Furniture was a standout, both in sustainability and design terms.
Phantila stated that these furniture products not only require a lot of resources, but also end up in the landfills every year. “While furniture products are often made from toxic materials, many of them contain chemicals and other substances that can off-gas and endanger our health.
Phantila, an entrepreneur by nature, wanted to create a sustainable furniture business not only to solve her own problems but also to make it easier for others living more sustainable lives. She knew she needed to be more than material sustainability.
Phantila stated that the company’s mission is to be as sustainable as possible.
She co-founded Sabai Design, with four main outcomes in mind.
Affordable: While sustainability has been used to raise prices in the past, Phantila wanted to create a business that was affordable and fairly priced.
Convenience : Sustainability shouldn’t be at the cost of convenience. The team made it easy to purchase and receive their products.
Aesthetic – Products should have an aesthetic that appeals to people, rather than using sustainability to justify limiting aesthetics.
Sustainability: This is more than sustainability of the product, but also the business and product life cycles.
Phantila said, “We realized that most people don’t care about sustainability if they aren’t aesthetically pleasing, cost-effective, and convenient.” “So, we realized that it was impossible to ask people to give up on these things if you want to have an impact.”
Sustainability is a key part of every business practice
When Phantila created Sabai Design she was conscious of her four pillars: affordability, convenience and aesthetic. Particularly, Phantila made sure that all business actions were in line with these pillars and not just product development.
Phantila and her team looked at sustainability in Sabai’s business.
Design Every product is made in modular pieces. This allows you to replace or repair any part that breaks.
Shipping The company strives to reduce the amount of transport needed to source and deliver products. This helps to reduce greenhouse gasses that are emitted from business growth.
End product life: Sabai not only manages its own buy-back operation and second hand sales, but also donates any products that aren’t selling after three months.
Phantila stated that recurring audits and analyses of products are a must to ensure that our products have the right mix of impact and innovation.
This mindset is not only for Sabai, but it is a common one. Paynter Jacket Co, another brand, is conscious about sustainability and waste. They also innovate in this area. Paynter releases its jackets only four times a year. Sabai believes that sustainable growth begins with listening to customers. Phantila said that making people want things will only lead to more waste.
Phantila stated that when it comes to product design, there are a lot more polls and survey work that is done to ensure that people want the products they’re creating.
Transparency is key to trust and business growth
Phantila, who has spent years building Sabai, is acutely aware of the importance of sustainability. She has made mistakes many times. Phantila said that honesty and transparency are the keys to continuing the journey.
She is concerned about companies marketing sustainability because one part of their business is more eco-friendly than the rest. She believes that building with sustainability means sharing your work with the community. This is a great way to build community, but Phantila also said that it’s about education. She doesn’t assume everyone knows about sustainability in all business models. So she uses Sabai as an example.
Phantila is honest with her community when Sabai fails to meet the mark. Although this may seem like a bad way to build business, Phantila says it creates trust and compassion among customers. This allows them to be more open and forgiving, and gives the company the freedom to get back on track.
Phantila stated that transparency with customers is a key factor in building trust. Customers understand that we do things differently and don’t always have a clear roadmap. They also know that we are trying to increase the impact of our products. That generates so much goodwill in our community and allows us to be open with them about what we’re doing and the things we haven’t.
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