We wish to operate in a way that is responsible. Part of this means having complete visibility over the origin of the materials we use to make our products, as well as the journey of third-party products sold through us. This should mean no negative impact on the environments in which materials are sourced, nor on the people involved in the process. Another aspect of this aim is to sell products that are safe to use and durable enough to last for the lengthy guarantees we promise, creating confidence in the Howdens brand.
Wood is predominately used in the creation of our own-brand products, and in a considerable amount: in 2019 we used more than 240,000 cubic metres of chipboard alone. In order to preserve this valuable material, we only use wood from FSC® and PEFC™ certified sources – where forests are managed responsibly – and can evidence the chain of custody in adherence to the Timber Trade Federation’s requirements. We keep up to date with industry changes by attending workshops run by The Office for Product Safety and Standards, ensuring our processes remain relevant.
As well as being fit for the purpose intended, our products must be safe. We strive to anticipate hazards and incorporate features to prevent accidents from occurring. One example of this is fitting our fridge-freezers with isolated circuit boards encased in a fire-retardant, self-extinguishing boxes. We also run campaigns to raise awareness about best practice for installation and use, such as how to make our fire doors properly effective. Encouraging the registration of appliances is another safety precaution, so that our products can be traced if necessary.
To maintain our high standards, we carefully consider who we trade with. Each potential supplier undergoes a thorough risk assessment, and must provide evidence of satisfactory working methods. Upon acceptance, suppliers are then issued with a code of conduct, and are required to share sourcing information in an official capacity – preferably through the respected Sedex platform. Internally, we provide staff with in-depth training about ethical working practices, enabling them to identify non-compliance with legislation on issues including modern slavery and bribery.
It is part of our mission statement to offer no-call back kitchens and joinery, which is why Howdens products are put through a series of rigorous tests to make sure they can withstand daily use. Doors and drawers undergo a ‘slam’ test in which they are shut up to 10,000 times, whilst surfaces are subjected to bleach, wine and curry powder. These comprehensive assessments allow us to offer lengthy guarantees, such as 25 years on cabinets, as well as the faith of builders and end-users in our products.