An Interview with Katie & Joanna from BFM

In this interview, Katie, Head of Design & Research at Design Conformity, and Joanna Privett, Membership Engagement Manager from the British Furniture Manufacturers (BFM) discuss the role and initiatives of BFM in the furniture industry.

Joanna, who oversees membership engagement at BFM, highlights the organisation’s efforts to engage its members. BFM, established in 1947, serves as the voice of the British-made furniture sector, facilitating information, representing the industry in government roundtables, and championing member interests.

Joanna, could you tell us a bit about yourself and your links to BFM?

Well, thank you, Katie, thank you very much for inviting me to participate today. I’m really happy to be here and excited to be here talking to you as one of our members.

I run the membership department at British Furniture Manufacturers Trade Association, I have been in the role for over a year and my responsibilities are to oversee the membership engagement at BFM. I deal with the events program, membership development and the engagement work that we do.

We’re a very small organisation so the core staff here is myself, my colleague, Marketing & Communications Manager, Joanna Audley, our MD, Phil Spaceman, and a few other people who give technical support along with event support from Roz Guarnori and our accounting team.

BFM has been going since 1947 and we’re the voice of the British made furniture sector.

How do you encourage people to join to become members? What is it that attracts them to you?

Part of my remit here, has been finding out what the longtime members value and because we have been going since 1947, we’ve represented the sector and government level and been a voice – people like to have that association with that long standing presence in the marketplace.

However, we’re shifting that dynamic now into making sure that we are relevant for the changing economic climate that we’re providing the information to smaller businesses to support them in their business growth.

The networking opportunities foster that sense of community. We’re stronger together.

How much of what BFM does looks at sustainability in the furniture industry?

We work closely with our partner Planet Mark, who are running a sustainability workshop at the Furniture Component Expo in Telford in April, who are at the cutting edge of the changes in the legislation, and they supply us with information, we work very closely with them and we promote awareness of what they do.

We recently did a webinar with them ‘Your Journey to Net Zero’ where they’re explaining how businesses can get in line with the changes in the law, and all the things that are coming to encourage best practice and encourage sustainability and ethical working practices as well.

What have you heard your members talk about in terms of being the most challenging aspects around sustainability?

There are many challenges. The new eco design legislation that’s coming out, we tend to follow close to the EU, there’s still some uncertainty about how much will be enshrined into UK law. Going back to the Eco Design topic, people know that you have some greenwashing being bandied around. Making sure that their products stand out as being genuinely, ethically produced is going to be key.

Trying to find new ways of being able to market the products and goods and services that match what the law requires. I think that’s a big challenge for our members, and it will impact many retail and manufacturing businesses. Another major challenge is the discussion recently around the plastic packaging tax because it will have a massive impact.

And of course, the climate crisis, how can we actually make sure that whatever the members are doing is keeping working towards a circular economy, and consider environmental and social governance.

What services does BFM offer to its members around sustainability education?

We work with Planet Mark so the newsletters, the webinars, the updates, the workshops that we’re having and the opportunity to come along to the regional meetings where they can talk about these things. We’re facilitators of information.

There’s so much information that you could dive into that you couldn’t possibly cover all areas in one session so it’s about extracting that relevant information that is key to the businesses. We make sure our members are aware of what they need to know.

With Design Conformity being members of the BFM we also get to benefit from this!

Absolutely! The more we know the more we can share and that’s the whole point of the trade association. We have a pivotal role to play and we’re here to support and provide that essential guidance.

Do you think BFM sees much development in terms of sustainability and the regulations coming?

Government consultations are coming out on various matters. We work closely with The British Furniture Confederation (BFC) and then we decide what information is disseminated and passed along accordingly. Our voice with the BFC means that members have representation to Government through their All-Party Parliamentary Furniture Industry Group (APPFIG).

How much do you think BFM will be involved in creating these regulations?

When asked for our input we consult with the members and put forward the common view. Our most recent meeting with Government has been on consultations for the flame retardant chemical regulations. That will be a massive thing for the manufacturers, and especially the fabric and textile producers, and everyone wants to know what’s going to happen. These things are continually evolving and changing and so we have to have our finger on the pulse as to be aware of what’s happening.

Do your members have the opportunity to be a part of the conversations that go forward to the government?

Yes, absolutely! We send out regular surveys asking for feedback because we have to represent the members, they’re an integral part. My role here at BFM is to make sure they know that they can have their voice heard. I work closely with the Marketing Communications Manager and we come up with various surveys so they have the opportunity to feedback to us.

What would you say to potential members looking at BFM in terms of being able to participate in these conversations?

I’m always keen to hear what any potential member has to say, as well as existing members. So initially, if someone wants to join or have a conversation – what is it you’re looking to achieve? How can we best support you? What do you need as a business? Where are you looking to grow? What resources do you need? 

It’s a dialogue. I think it’s really important to understand what a business needs, make sure that we can provide what they require and information is a two way street. We need to have information in order to support them in return. It’s about having a conversation and seeing how we can best support. That’s how we work.

What’s the most important aspect of BFM?

It’s really important to make sure that we’re engaged with our members, and that people are making the most of their membership benefit. I’m always keen to encourage people. I encourage people to get involved. If you want to do a webinar or a podcast let’s talk! If you want to host a regional networking event, let me know. There are opportunities to be involved in our major events and seminar content too. We’ve got Silent Night for example who are keen to come down to the Furniture Expo in April and we’re discussing having a forum about flame retardant chemical regulations as they want to share some of the research they have found.

Here at BFM we are able to facilitate that and it’s really exciting to be a part of because we’re helping the industry, the environment, diversity in the workplace as well Women in Furniture, apprenticeships skills, future proofing, horizon scanning, all these things are really, really important.

Do you have any events coming up that you’d like us to mention?

On April 24th & 25th we have the Furniture Component Expo. We are also very excited to have a Regional meeting hosted by JayBe, which is going to be on the 4th of June in West Yorkshire. We’re hoping to have a couple of dates secured for the latter half of the year but I’m always on the hunt for anyone willing to host as it gives them an opportunity to feature themselves and be a part of the story.

Find out more about BFM events here:

And finally, what does the British Furniture Manufacturers hope to achieve this year?

We’re looking to increase member engagement and grow the number of retail members, while continuing to encourage best practice and sustainability. We launched the retail strand of BFM membership at JFS 2023, and we want to focus on developing the full circle from suppliers to manufacturers with the end product being sold via a British retailer. We want to promote all three strands of membership (supplier, manufacturers, and retailers) as the voice of the British Furniture industry.

A huge thank you to Joanna Privett for speaking with Katie Furmston.

If you would like to get in touch with our partnership team here at Design Conformity, please email

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