A NORTH EAST family-owned furniture retailer, founded by two young RAF men following the end of the Second World War, is reaching new heights.

Barker and Stonehouse is starting its 75th anniversary year by being awarded Carbon Neutral Plus status, which means that it is reducing emissions above and beyond its own carbon footprint.

The retailer has pledged to plant at least 75,000 trees this year – including one for every delivery it makes.

During the past 12 months, it has successfully launched two world-first products, namely the Big Blue upholstery range and the Loop mattress.

The Big Blue product uses materials that are sustainably sourced, as well as all of its fabric and cushion fillings being made from 100 per cent recycled plastic retrieved from the ocean. The results are a luxurious fabric and extremely comfortable cushions that have made this one of the company’s best-selling sofas.

Similarly, the Loop mattress uses the finest natural components and is 100 per cent recyclable, the result of two years’ research and development. With mattresses being one of the main culprits for landfill in the UK, the Loop’s recyclability is a huge step forward.

Managing director James Barker said: “Customer response to our sustainably-produced furniture has been terrific. These pieces are quickly becoming best-sellers, showing that customers want to be able to find furniture they can buy with good conscience.

“We now want to significantly increase the volume of furniture we sell to be made using environmentally-sound practices.”

Alongside a major focus on eco projects, there will be continued investment in new North-East jobs. The company is building its own digital production studio complex, in which to produce content around all aspects of furniture, interiors and design. This will be offered to inform, educate and inspire a growing number of the company’s customers and social media communities.

Barker and Stonehouse was founded in Stockton-on-Tees in 1946 by Charles Barker and Alex Stonehouse, who set about creating a furniture store aimed at delivering a little pizzazz to post-war Britain.

James Barker is the third generation of his family to run the business, following in the footsteps of his father Richard who bought out the Stonehouse family interest in 1974.

James said: “We are very proud to be a North-East business. It’s fantastic to look back and see how far we’ve come since my grandfather opened the doors of our first store in Stockton in 1946."

He said that it has been especially rewarding to have been independently accredited as a Carbon Neutral Plus company.

He said: "This means that we are eradicating the environmental impact of the business’ carbon output. We are the first large-scale furniture retailer in the UK to achieve this.

“Gaining this accreditation reflects a significant milestone and an investment of time, money and a company-wide effort in a whole range of initiatives over the last decade. These include store design, transport logistics, supply chain management, reforestation activity and product innovation.

“Tackling climate change needs to be at the top of everyone’s agenda. That’s why a major part of our anniversary activity is focused on continuing to tackle the challenges the furniture industry faces regarding environmental impact. To do this, over the next 12 months, we’re launching a number of further ambitious sustainability goals and initiatives.”

The retailer will now be planting a tree for every piece of furniture delivered by its in-house fleet, which should translate into approximately 80,000 to 100,000 trees each year.

It will do this via the reforestation charity, Trees 4 Trees, of which Barker and Stonehouse was a founding partner 13 years ago.