Q&A: Scarlette Tapp, executive director of the Sustainable Furnishings Council

HIGH POINT — This past spring the Sustainable Furnishings Council named Scarlette Tapp as its new executive director, a position that had been held for the previous 15 years by Susan Inglis.

Tapp came to the SFC from the Artists Guild of Spartanburg, South Carolina where she held the position of executive director for the previous two years. Before that, she was development director at the Foothills Equestrian Nature Center in Tryon, North Carolina and before that was marketing director for That’s It Marketing in Spartanburg.

Scarlette Tapp

Recently Tapp shared some thoughts with Home News Now about her new role and the transition that has taken shape since she began the job, working with staff that includes Inglis, who continues to serve in an educational capacity for the organization.

Home News Now: How would you describe the transition that is taking place as you settle into your new role? Has it been a big learning curve for you?

Tapp: The leadership transition at SFC started with a bang during Spring Market in High Point, complete with a celebration of Susan’s accomplishments over her 15-year tenure and a public introduction to me. And it’s been going at quite a pace ever since. Along with managing the daily operations of our nonprofit, I have been working with our staff and the board of directors in strategic planning. That’s actually been quite exciting, mapping out new directions and goals for the organization. We will have that finalized before year’s end to kick off 2023 with a new SFC — the same mission and more reach! 

And while I have been entirely comfortable taking over the management and leadership of this nonprofit, my learning curve has been all about home furnishings — from understanding the industry as a whole to how different types of furniture are manufactured to the challenges of ensuring sustainability in supply chains. 

What excites you most about the new position?

Tapp: Learning! Not only for my educational journey in sustainability and home furnishings but for our stakeholders. The key to furthering our mission is education — of the home furnishings industry and the consumer. We want healthy interiors and a healthy planet! What’s been very interesting for me to learn is that many younger industry professionals have “sustainability in their DNA,” as we say at SFC. But many retailers, manufacturers, suppliers, and designers look to us to help educate them on sustainability best practices. We provide our own accredited CEUs or point them in the right direction to learn more from others. In addition to CEUs, SFC provides learning opportunities through our monthly Sustainability Essentials Webinars and our weekly Member Working Groups. Knowledge is power, and as we embark on our new iteration of SFC, we will have more educational offerings. That’s exciting!  

Are there any key initiatives you have in place or are putting in place that you can talk about yet?

Tapp: We just launched a Circular Design Glossary in partnership with mebl | Transforming Furniture. This digital glossary is a fantastic learning tool offering clear definitions and real-life examples of 43 key circular concepts. It’s free for anyone to download here: https://sustainablefurnishings.org/glossary

The SFC has done a good job gaining new members in many different sectors of the home furnishings industry. Is there a big push at this point to further expand membership? 

Tapp: SFC is updating our current membership model as part of our strategic plan. We aim to expand that model to include more membership tiers with corresponding benefits. While our sustainability resources are not limited to SFC members, we do see the inherent value of building a strong, cohesive group poised to take a leadership role in our industry with one voice. And the more members, the louder the voice. With the climate in undeniable crisis, it’s time we start yelling from the rooftops!  

Is there a big hot button environmental issue you plan to address in the near future? 

Tapp: Deforestation is always top of mind at SFC since the furniture industry is one of the largest contributors to illegal and unsustainable logging and deforestation. Five years ago, SFC partnered with the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) to create the Wood Furniture Scorecard, which analyzes and publishes rankings of furniture retailers based on the sustainability and transparency of their wood-sourcing policies and practices. On October 17th, we announced the top and high scorers of the Wood Furniture Scorecard. And, on Thursday, October 20th, we presented our Sustainability Essentials Webinar to highlight some of the retailers who scored the best and significantly improved their scores. 

How important will social media be in communicating the SFC’s message moving forward?

Tapp: We definitely rely on social media to convey our mission and highlight our members who are living it. SFC is incredibly thankful for our PR firm, Andrew Joseph PR, which shares our vision for a more sustainable future in the home furnishings industry.

The SFC also has had a strong presence at various shows over the years. Do you expect this to continue as part of your educational message moving forward?

Tapp: Absolutely! We look forward to offering learning and networking opportunities at various shows!

Thomas Russell

Home News Now Editor-in-Chief Thomas Russell has covered the furniture industry for 25 years at various daily and weekly consumer and trade publications. He can be reached at tom@homenewsnow.com and at 336-508-4616.

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