L to R Liqui designed Whittington glass pendant light and Shaw shelving
At Liqui, the pursuit of sustainability has been a core tenet of the company since the beginning. When working with clients, Liqui emphasises ‘practical sustainability’: if it is practical (and this often equates to cost), Liqui will use a particular material. There are clients who will wince at the costs associated with sustainability. In this case, Liqui, as a commercial venture, might need to consider a less sustainable route. Some companies will choose to work with Liqui because of its sustainability credentials. For others, it is because Liqui is a creative design firm. Whatever the reason, the sustainable nature of Liqui’s products is both practical and essential.
Bagalight featured in a London Coffee Shop
‘Sustainability’ is the latest buzzword in business and an increasing number of companies have jumped on the bandwagon. In a world of fast design and mass consumerism, companies that make small, incremental steps towards sustainability—even if we question how altruistic their motives are—will certainly help to make a difference. If a designer can make sustainability attractive and relatable, then more and more consumers will think about their purchases. It will also help if companies work towards full transparency, enabling consumers to make educated choices. Transparency benefits the company, the consumer, the manufacturer, and the environment. It requires commitment, openness, and honesty, including: the location of farms and factories, the use of raw materials, labour costs, transport costs, the level of CO2 emissions, water use, and energy use.
L to R Liqui designed Work Lamp
Originally a consumer-based company, Liqui’s first product was the ‘Bagalight’, a paper bag light. Despite its inherent throwaway design, the product—made predominantly of paper—was environmentally-friendly and easily recycled. Now very much a contract company, Liqui’s focus is on making furniture and lighting that will last for generations. Strong and durable, its products can be repaired and restored. When creating objects and interiors, Liqui’s designs are timeless: unlike fashionable design, they will last for many years. Liqui is building a business that is long-term. Its profit margins might be smaller because it is funding that ‘new material’, and has chosen not to transfer the cost to the client. However, such an approach pays dividends, and Liqui is honoured to work with a number of businesses across the world. As a company, Liqui can pride itself on being both highly moral and ethical: there is absolutely space for morals in business.
L to R Liqui designed Milne Chair
Liqui is keen to promote and support traditional crafts, many of which are disappearing. Despite the UK’s diverse history of heritage craft skills—from blacksmithing to basketry, and weaving to woodturning—the Heritage Crafts Association (HCA) reports that many such skills are in the hands of people who are unable to pass them on. The HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts was the first report to assess the viability of traditional crafts—the extensive list includes those crafts that are extinct, critically endangered, and endangered. Liqui concedes that modern craft involves an element (sometimes considerable, depending on scale) of technology and innovation, yet believes craft in its truest artisanal sense, remains a viable and rewarding career choice.
L to R Liqui designed branding for Bread Lab London
The spun aluminium Trafford lamps for Brew92
There is much power in the collective efforts of consumers. The rise in veganism and the establishment of Veganuary, with its associated social and agricultural changes, is one key example. Around the UK, we are witnessing a certain resurgence in craftsmanship, particularly in areas such as furniture-making, ceramics, textiles, food, beer, and more. Whether it is trendy to do so or a genuine commitment, consumers who make a conscious change in how they consume will support sustainable efforts. And where consumers go, companies will follow.