Design & Packaging

Steelcase CEO on building the case for sustainability leadership

It wasn't a unanimously popular decision when Steelcase CEO Jim Keane decided that all products the furniture company showcased at a major annual event would have to measure up to cradle to cradle design standards.

“People told me it was naive, and it was. That it would cost too much, and it did," Keane said in an on-stage interview at the GreenBiz 16 conference held earlier this year in Arizona.

Skeptics also told him that it was a bad idea altogether, but on this point he diverges: "It wasn't," Keane said.

He explained that the process required the company to get serious about scaling the number of sustainable products in its portfolio, hiring on people with relevant expertise and setting up new systems for full lifecycle design.