When companies consider their corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability efforts, a lot of thought goes into energy use, water use and waste management. One area that is often overlooked is furniture management, and it can have a big impact on business sustainability.

The year ahead will see many companies redesigning their offices, downsizing or relocating in response to the pandemic and the new way of working. That means there may be a huge amount of surplus furniture that needs a new home.

Previously this may have been exported to emerging markets, while items like office chairs could have been sent to employee homes. However, the demand from emerging markets has reduced, as has the demand from home settings as most people now have the furniture they require.

Businesses are therefore faced with a challenge of disposing of a large amount of furniture in a sustainable way. Fortunately, there are solutions.

Reduce, reuse, recycle

We’re all familiar with the waste management slogan that suggests we reduce what can first, then reuse, and finally recycle – and ideally send nothing to landfill.

Starting with reduce, as businesses downsize or relocate it presents the perfect opportunity to plan ahead with regards to furniture. With hybrid working set to stay for many companies, they may not need a desk and chair for every employee. Forward-thinking companies will plan not just for now, but for future likelihoods to ensure that they are not over-stocked with furniture.

There are multiple ways to reuse items. A thorough audit should be undertaken to ascertain the amount of furniture, it’s condition, location and outcome (such as keep, store, donate or recycle).

Furniture can be refurbished and still work just as well. We saved one client £86,000 by using refurbished screens and desktops instead of buying them new, showing there’s a business case alongside the sustainability one.

Donating furniture is also a great option, as it gets a new home and extended life cycle. Donating to charities also contributes towards CSR. We donated 637 chairs in a 12-month period to the Orange Circular Economy scheme, while many of our clients have local charities they choose to donate to. We recently partnered with a charity that takes redundant technology, to prevent tech from going to waste.

Where an item has been designated for recycling, we look for solutions that use up every part of an item. Desks can be tricky as many are made up of ‘dirty wood’. We’re working with partners that break down an item so that no part goes to waste. Desk parts can be used for animal bedding, compost or biofuels.

Solutions do exist for avoiding sending furniture to landfill and they have a big impact on business sustainability.

Close the loop

Do you know where your recycling goes from your home or office? It’s easy to assume everything is recycled but that’s not always the case.

We tell our clients exactly what happens with everything they choose to recycle, to give them reassurance that they are meeting their sustainability goals. It’s also great for them to be able to evidence this in leadership meetings.

We’ve been supporting our clients with their sustainability goals for many years and look forward to enhancing that support throughout 2021. Contact us today to talk about how we can support your sustainable furniture management.


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