A new BIFMA certification program for the Contract Furniture Industry

At the onset of 2020 some people will make resolutions while others will go for predictions.  I usually avoid both.  This year though I am willing to make an exception specifically for the Furniture Industry, an industry I have been proud to serve for the past 29 years.  So here is my prediction: Within the next 2 years, most major contract furniture manufacturers will have at least a portion of their offering listed on the “BIFMA compliant” certification scheme.

Some background:

BIFMA has been publishing testing standards since 1973.  In 2010 BIFMA unfolded its first certification program, Level® a sustainability certification for office furniture.  This certification provides designers, procurement officers, architects, facility managers and others with a level playing field for specifying “sustainable” furniture.  Level® is to commercial furniture as LEED is to buildings.  Level® has gained considerable traction in the contract furniture world; it has received formal recognition in 2017 from the EPA and GSA.  It has been used to contribute to sustainable building ratings such as LEED. Furthermore, it has also been made mandatory by the Canadian Government for its furniture acquisitions. 

What’s new?

Until now there were no reliable certification programs insuring claims made by the office furniture industry which were properly substantiated with regards to compliance for the nine BIFMA performance and safety standards. This is about to change.  Indeed, BIFMA plans on launching its BIFMA Compliant® certification program on October first this fall.  The program is already in its pilot stage with manufacturers uploading their information and BIFMA will start reviewing files for certification purposes as early as April.

Many organizations use the BIFMA standards as a qualification requirement in their purchasing process.  Most of them rely on the information supplied by vendors including their warranties.  In few cases, a letter signed by the vendor certifying conformity to the said standards was required.  To my knowledge only two purchasing groups in North America have a more formal process. However both groups, except for some limited time periods, largely failed at properly monitoring the information that was supplied to them.  This was mainly due to the lack of will / budget to properly allocate relevant resources in sufficient quantities and on a continuous basis.  Indeed, maintaining that type of program requires dedicated technically competent resources with the funds to support them.   Experience indicates this can really only work on a cost recovery basis.  Otherwise, certification costs go through the roof and nobody is willing to absorb them.  Personally, I believe BIFMA is uniquely positioned to successfully rise to the challenge.    

What will the program entail?

Essentially the BIFMA COMPLIANT program will be a formal process for manufacturers to self-declare conformance with the BIFMA Standards and publish that self-declaration in BIFMA’s website registry.  For those of you familiar with Level®, the web registry for “Compliant” will be quite similar to the one for Level®.

A sub-set of the submitted test reports will be audited on an annual basis by BIFMA’s technical staff.  As with any certification program, there will also be a complaint process for stakeholders wishing to challenge the compliance status of specific products.  To insure complaints are sound, they will have to be substantiated with test reports demonstrating non-compliance. 

Program participants will only be allowed to be listed on the registry products if they can prove, through testing done in an ISO 17025 accredited laboratory, to be compliant to the relevant BIFMA Standards:

Program participants will have to upload their test reports as well as an Excel spreadsheet containing the products to be listed on the certification program platform. Licensees will be allowed to modify the registry with some limits to the number of changes they want to make on a monthly basis.  In addition, they will be allowed to use the “BIFMA Compliant” mark exclusively for the products line or part thereof, for which they have demonstrated compliance based on a worst case scenario analysis.

Who will be allowed to participate:

The certification program will be opened to BIFMA members and non-members.  BIFMA members will get a preferred rate.

Policing the Mark:

BIFMA will audit program participants on an annual basis for proper use of the mark.  In severe or repeated instances of non-conformity or misuse of the mark; participants might have their certification removed.

Product testing:

Products shall be tested if one of the following conditions occur:

  • New products;
  • Test reports are older than 10 years ;
  • 3 years after issuance of a new edition of an existing standard (only for the tests that were changed and are more difficult than the previous tests;
  • Changes made to the certified products having a potential impact on the compliance outcome.

Micom is an ISO 17025 accredited laboratory offering BIFMA testing test services in a 15 000 square feet facility.  Any questions; feel free to contact our experts:  1-888-996-4266

Disclaimer

All of the information and opinions contained in this blog are made with the information, and the understanding that we have reviewed at the time of publishing.  However, despite our efforts, we do not offer any guarantee of their accuracy, thoroughness of our investigation or validity. The author of this blog is not liable for any inaccuracies or any losses or damages that may result from the use of the information or data contained herein. This blog has not been reviewed or verified for its accuracy by any peer group associates prior to publication.