Herman Miller’s sustainable energy, materials programs inspires author Posted October 17, 2011 by Daniel Ostroff

Herman Miller’s decision to stop using Brazilian Rosewood on the iconic Eames lounge chair shown on this cover inspired an author to write a book.


From the Holland Sentinel, October 17, 2011:

“In March 1990, Herman Miller faced what could have been a corporate crisis.

“Officials at the Zeeland furniture company discovered the exotic wood that was the trademark of its signature piece of furniture was being harvested from endangered tropical forests.

“In the world of fine furniture design, building the well-known Eames Lounge chair without the option of Rosewood was something akin to sacrilege. The company, however decided to quit using Rosewood, opting instead for wood from easier-to-replace trees such as walnut and cherry.

“The story of that decision, the precedent it set and other environmentally minded decisions that it prompted are featured in a new book: “Merchants of Virtue: Herman Miller and the Making of a Sustainable Company,” published by Palgrave MacMillan last month.

“The book, aimed at the business crowd, is an ‘easy read’ written in a narrative journalism style, said author Bill Birchard.”

Herman Miller’s GreenHouse building in Holland is one example of the company’s efforts at sustainability. The building’s glass panels let in a maximum amount of natural light so that very little electric lighting is needed.

For the complete article, please click here. For the book’s website, click here. Read praise for Merchants of Virtue below.

“In Merchants of Virtue the author shows that innovation at Herman Miller extends well beyond new product development and training and developing people. It was no suprrise to me that they implemented the EVA Management System right down to the shop floor even on Day One. This insightful story about their journey with business sustainability efforts puts them up there with the other cutting-edge organizations.” Joel M. Stern, Chairman and CEO, Stern Stewart & Co. and Stern Stewart Capital Partners

Merchants of Virtue is a business story for our times. An American story of risk taking, vision, values and pluck. Before all the management fashions of our era, there was Herman Miller. Bill Bichard shows you how this Midwest manufacturer led the way to sustainability.” Judith Samuelson, Executive Director, Business and Society Program, The Aspen Institute