Sustainability Leaders: Sian Berkley, Ocee International

As part of our Reaching Carbon Zero campaign, Design Insider is thrilled to bring you a brand new series of Sustainability Leaders Q&A’s with leading brands from within the commercial interiors sector. This month, we had the chance to speak with Sian Berkeley, Group Sustainability & Environmental Manager at Ocee International, about Sian’s journey within her role and how Ocee are continuing to develop sustainability throughout the company.  

[Find Ocee International on BCFA Product Finder]

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your role within Ocee International?

I’m Sian, the Group Sustainability & Environmental Manager for Ocee International. Following my Geography degree, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in Sustainability. Though a few years ago, it wasn’t as commonplace as today for companies to have an employee who solely focused on sustainability. I joined the organisation in 2019 on a 12-week placement to help with marketing Ocee’s sustainability actions. Within my first few weeks I knew that there was more that could be done and so created a sustainability strategy which I pitched to the board, landing myself a permanent position in the company to then implement the strategy and become the sustainability representative for the group.

When did you first begin to address sustainability within your business?

Prior to me joining, the company had considered sustainability, being ISO14001 and FISP certified. They monitored energy and waste and made improvements where possible i.e. sending 0% waste from manufacturing to landfill. The company had also managed to certify one of our products with the EU Ecolabel certification, making it the first plastic chair ever to be certified with this label.

When I joined, the idea was to create a more holistic sustainability plan that not only considered the environment, but people too, to bring our actions altogether. I created a strategy based on the UN Sustainable Development Goals, understanding which goals we could make an impact within and finding industry specific actions to achieve this.

Sustainability is a key focus across your business, can you tell us about Ocee International’s Sustainable Development Goals?

We use the UN SDGs as our framework – selecting 5 out of 17 where we believe we can make direct impact. The 5 goals we decided on and why were:

  • Goal 3: Good Health and Wellbeing – To consider the physical and mental health of our employees and our customers
  • Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth – To decouple economic growth with environmental degradation whilst benefiting the surrounding society
  • Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities – To provide customers with solutions to help them reduce their environmental footprint
  • Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production – To contribute to the circular economy
  • Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions – To increase transparency throughout the organisation and supply chain

What achievements have you already made in addressing sustainability and what do you have planned?

For the past few years, a lot of my focus has been on the internal aspects of the company to ensure we are not greenwashing. Whilst we had an EU Ecolabel certified product, this didn’t necessarily certify us as an overall sustainable company and we needed to have company actions to illustrate our holistic approach to sustainability.

Some of the actions launched are:

  1. Training of Mental Health First Aiders in work
  2. Launch of a UK Take Back Scheme which rehomes furniture reaching its ‘end-of-life’ with customers to avoid it going to landfill
  3. Carbon Neutrality to Scope 2 through various offsetting schemes – 472 trees were planted in the UK to offset our 2019 group emissions; 300 tonnes of carbon were offset with Verified Carbon Credits focusing on a carbon avoidance project in a section of the Amazon, Labrea, Brazil

How do you plan to achieve your target of 0% manufacturing waste?

2 out of 3 of Ocee International companies send 0% waste to landfill. The third company is due to reach this target this year. We separate recyclable materials and the rest is sent to incineration, where the energy from the burning process is captured and directed back to the grid (known as Energy-from-Waste / EfW).

How do you ensure sustainability through design?

We are trying to include eco-design principles from the start of product design. Whether this be sustainable materials that are recyclable, responsibly sourced, chemical restrictive. We know the importance of designing for disassembly so that products can be taken apart easily to aid repair and recycle, which essentially could extend the life of products and materials.

Once we have our LCA data, this will give us more grounds to incorporate sustainable materials based on data and not stories. Considering the processes materials go through, the expected lifecycle, the sourcing point and the disposability. These are all factors that will determine the embodied carbon and sustainability of our products and so should all be considered with design.

What is Ocee International’s next step?

Our focus for the future years is all about data. Being able to provide product environmental data detailing recycled content, recyclability and embodied carbon figures by conducting Product Life Cycle Assessments (LCA). This will help customers reach their carbon targets which are likely to become more common with companies joining the Race to Net Zero.

Our other upcoming project is to calculate our Scope 3 emissions in order to be able to set targets to become Net Zero. At the moment we carbon offset, whereas going forward we need to set targets to reduce our carbon emissions as much as possible, and offset the unavoidable carbon.

Contact Ocee International through the BCFA Product Finder.

The BCFA Product Finder is a unique search engine created especially for interior designers to source contract furnishing companies. Utilising this platform will support your findings for upcoming projects, with over 200 members profiles showcasing the latest product launches, new materials available, industry news and design trends.


About Phoebe Train

Phoebe is a Marketing and Events Executive, who joined the BCFA as an English graduate in 2021. Working closely with designers and BCFA members, Phoebe has published an array of content for Design Insider.
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