The concept of quality encompasses more than mere product durability. The 'human quality factor' plays a very important role, too, as far as the DGM and its members are concerned. This includes the health compatibility of a piece of furniture and the raw materials used in its production, as well as the environmental soundness of the entire production process.

Furniture must undergo a whole series of tests before being awarded the RAL Quality Mark. During the course of these tests, experts from independent testing institutes not only examine the furniture's stability, solidity, workmanship and safety, but also its pollutant content.

The list of substances the furniture is being tested for is long: formaldehyde, solvent residue / volatile compounds like alkanes, esters, arenes, terpenes, ketones and so on are all on it, as well as biocides, lindane, pyrethroids, azoic dyes, CFCs, heavy metals or flame retardant substances. In the case of some substances, the Deutsche Gütegemeinschaft Möbel e.V. applies even more stringent standards regarding the maximum amount permitted than the German Federal Ministry of Health. Formaldehyde, for example, must not exceed 0.05 ppm (parts per million); at 0.1 ppm, the legally permitted maximum is almost double that. During a review of the quality assurance and certification regulations, the working group 'Environment - Healthy Living' decided to reduce the permitted amount of this substance, and some other substances, to below the legal level. The guiding principle for this extreme stringency: to eliminate any health risks to consumers who buy quality assured furniture, even to those who are particularly sensitive.

Apart from being tested for pollutant content, the odour emission level of furniture that smells unusually strong or emits non-typical smells is also tested, as an unpleasant odour can also have an adverse effect on consumer well-being.

To be awarded the RAL Quality Mark, however, a piece of furniture must not just have low pathogenic pollution levels; rather, the whole of the production chain must be environmentally friendly and health risk free. For example, any timber and timber-derived materials used in furniture making must not have been treated with biocidal timber preservatives.

When timber-derived materials that are wholly or partially made from scrap and/or salvaged wood are used, they must carry a certificate guaranteeing that only unpolluted wood has been recycled.

Furniture manufacturers must make sure that they do not use any materials or processes that pose environmental or health risks. The amount of resources used for the production, including the energy needed, must be ecologically sound, as must the design and construction, the packaging, transport and use, waste disposal or recycling and, of course, the actual furniture production process.

Because we must be able to reassure furniture buyers: a piece of furniture that has been awarded the 'Golden M' is a tested and approved product that can be used in home furnishing with a clear conscience.