UK Made Supply Chains

Supply chains are often a complex and layered discussion and my recent interviews with BCFA members Ocee Design and Camira confirm just how much so. This isn’t to paint supply chains in a negative light but highlight how much work and thought is required in developing and maintaining them especially when it comes to sustainability. Both BCFA members are making and have made significant changes to the practises within their chain of supply to work towards a better future.

I sat down to talk to Sian Berkley, Group Sustainability & Environmental Manager and Jessica Bowyer, Sourcing Manager from Ocee Design and Gavin Thatcher, Director of Operations at Camira to discuss all things supply chains. 

Politics and pandemics have definitely kept our interviewees busy over the last year and many changes have been accelerated by either one or both. Jess at Ocee Design tells me that the group had already been working through risk assessments for Brexit: 

“In February 2020, we were already discussing how to mitigate the potential problems that could arise from border delays and even though the pandemic hit harder and faster than we expected, we could react quickly and put those initial risk assessments into practise.” 

She also told me of a see saw style of working with their sister company in Denmark, Ocee Four, as each country went in and out of lockdown, the other would pick up the demand to keep things running. A flexible approach has been key it seems for both Ocee Design and Camira. Gavin stresses it is the support from employees that have allowed them to adapt to the demands of the pandemic. 

Despite the pandemic consuming a lot of thinking space and time, both BCFA members have been equally busy when it comes to sustainability and looking at improvements they can make throughout the supply chain. Sian was bought on specifically to manage these changes and since joining 18 months ago, Ocee have made huge strides with their sustainability standardisation across the board. She talked me through the UN Global Compact which serves as the basis of their own sustainable policies. The principles fall into four main categories: Human Rights, Labour, Environment, Anti-Corruption – the idea that Corporate Sustainability starts with meeting the fundamental responsibilities in these areas. The UN itself states that: 

By incorporating the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact into strategies, policies and procedures, and establishing a culture of integrity, companies are not only upholding their basic responsibilities to people and planet, but also setting the stage for long-term success.” 

Not a small undertaking by any means but it became clear that both Camira and Ocee are thinking long term. Gavin also tells me in detail how Camira’s corporate structure focuses on sustainability and it is something they take very seriously. One example he gives demonstrates Camira’s move to make things as cyclical as possible, the run off water from their dying factories is reused as much as possible. A simple but effective change. Ocee also has examples of the small wins that add up, Sian tells me about maximising the use of their vans that are out on delivery, if geographically close to their suppliers – they pick up supplies instead of returning empty. This also demonstrates how Occee are working in partnership with their supply chain: 

“It is a big shift for the company but it is all about the bigger picture. We ask how can the whole approach be better and more sustainable?” Sian relays. 

This mentality of everyone benefitting shared by both companies echoes the goals of the UN Global Compact but it is important to note because it puts the partnership with the supply chain at the heart of long term success. 

Sian tells me that naturally there has been a mixed response to the changes, some suppliers are ready and others not but one hugely positive outcome of the pandemic is the rise in consumer demand for sustainable changes and visibility of said changes.

Whether that is transparency of materials used, Gavin tells me that the vast majority of Camira’s products are eco-compliant, woven either from naturally sustainable materials – such as bast fibres and wool – or recycled polyester. Indeed, they recently launched Oceanic – part of the SEAQUAL Initiative to achieve a waste free environment, it was their first fabric to include marine sea waste, with each metre containing the equivalent of 26 plastic bottles. Ocee confirm that they too have seen a real push for a ‘take back scheme’, prolonging the life of the furniture and materials already in existence. So whilst both companies are making strides with their corporate responsibilities it isn’t an insular approach.

Camira sources a number of key materials from the UK – predominately British wool and bast fibres – and Gavin highlighted the significant benefits of this to me: “the main thing is the ability to be agile” and it seems that this agility as aforementioned was not only critical to surviving a global pandemic but hammered home the importance of sustainable practice. He goes on to say how the commercial fabrics they create must meet exacting standards in terms of durability and performance, and it is for this reason that they use ultra-robust British wool within the moquette transport fabrics for which the company is renowned (Camira has supplied the iconic textiles featured on the London Underground for over a century), and natural fibres – which play a predominant role in their contract collection of sustainable fabrics – from farms as close as Leicester.  These homegrown materials are complemented by those sourced from as far afield as New Zealand – a country renowned for its light, bright, super soft wool – but which have in common a robust supply chain audit, performed by Camira to ensure that every supplier meets its exacting industry standards. This is especially impressive due to the sheer amount of fabric Camira produces, with over 8 million metres manufactured each year. A huge sustainability win. 
Ocee also work closely with their UK supply chain to meet this demand and have helped smaller suppliers partner up for schemes such as FSC and provided mentorship where necessary, again ticking the everyone benefits box when it comes to investing in the future. It also involves talking with their suppliers about where every single product comes from so they can provide EPDs, environmental product declarations for their finished goods. All of the details that allow Ocee to make these huge strides towards sustainable standardisation across the group.  

All in all the last year may have proven trickier than some but the moves both BCFA members have already made towards a sustainable future has only served them well, however it is clear that it’s also the attitude of community and collaboration within their own teams as well as with suppliers that provides the foundation for longevity. Thank you to both Camira and Ocee Design for taking the time to talk to me for this article. 

Contact Camira and Ocee Design through 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 Sarah Tebb

Sarah Tebb is a creative copywriter and freelance content writer that works across a broad spectrum of industries. Her interest in sustainability, product design and interiors combined with her writing experience lends itself seamlessly to writing for Design Insider.
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