From the CEO: What is of value to you?

I have had a lot of discussions lately regarding “value” versus price. Probably stimulated by an earlier blog post by moi. It really is an interesting subject, and it varies by person and topic. What is of value to one is, well, not so much of value to someone else. Or as my mother used to say, “one man’s garbage is another’s treasure.” 

But I have been giving this subject a lot of thought and would like to know what you all think on the subject. In the times we are living in, it seems very relevant to me. We are faced with green washing, organic everything, and so many claims that it is hard to tell fact from fiction and really understand the impact on our lives that some of these decisions may make. 

Is the organic avocado that was flown in from Peru really a good thing? Is the hybrid luxury SUV that gets all of 19 miles per gallon really a good thing? Or in our case: Is an authentic reproduction of an Eames chair that is three times the price of an unauthorized one really worth the difference? 

It seems that the answer to each of these questions is: maybe. It depends on your point of view and your alternative. It depends on what is of value to you or me. 

The organic avocado from Peru is probably better than a non-organic avocado from Peru, but maybe not better than a locally grown one from your farmers’ market (if you live in an area where avocados are grown). 

The hybrid SUV is probably a better choice than a non-hybrid SUV, but maybe not as good as no SUV at all. So if you don’t have to have a large vehicle then you have that choice, but if you actually need one, well then the hybrid is good. These answers keep coming back to personal options and individual values.

So that brings us to the Eames chair (could be a Barcelona or an Egg, same idea). The authentic piece is manufactured in a factory that uses sustainable processes. The water leaving the plant is cleaner than the water going in. The leather is tanned in a factory that uses the best practices for maintaining a healthy environment, the structure must pass BIFMA testing, it has to be LEED and Greenguard certified, and the Eames estate is a participant in any changes, as well as compensated for the design work done by their family. 

The knock-off (that’s an industry term – I actually prefer “unauthorized reproduction”) is manufactured in a factory that is not Greenguard or LEED certified, and the manufacturing processes may be legal in the country of manufacture, but not acceptable to concerned inhabitants of planet Earth. The structure does not undergo rigid testing and no BIFMA certification is provided. And the design work of the Eames estate is used without license or compensation to the estate. Again, it may not be illegal under certain circumstances, but it may be unacceptable to some (me for one). 

So where does it all come down? Well, if you simply don’t care about these issues, then there is no real value to you in the licensed product. If you care about authenticity and about the planet, but can’t afford the Herman Miller piece at this point in your life, then you have a tougher choice (especially if you need a chair). So maybe you buy the knock-off knowing it will get thrown away when it falls apart or when you can afford the real thing (whichever comes first). 

It seems these are all personal choices in the end, and personal values. 

Of course we all win when we can make the choice that is best for the environment and society, but that is simply not always possible. So what is a body to do? 

This is a question we face daily in our personal and business lives. In our personal lives, I like to think we all try to do the right thing and make the best choice we can. In our business lives at DWR, I know we try very hard to do the right thing and give our clients a choice that is responsible and as affordable as it can be made, given our self-imposed constraints of responsible manufacturing, commercial quality, and respect for intellectual property. These are important things to us, and we hope to you too. 

So if you get a chance – let us know what you think. 


Posted by Ray Brunner, CEO, Design Within Reach