At an event last year in Glasgow, Luke Palmer (Principal Designer at Orangebox) commented that Google was from now on only going to buy used workplace furniture. An organisation like Google publicly putting their weight behind furniture reuse/remanufacturing is a powerful message that should resonate with organisations large and small. Our mission as a business is to keep workplace furniture in the economy for as long as possible, so having the backing of large organisations such as Google is a very positive step in this becoming a reality on a global scale.
Supply v Demand
One of the main challenges with used office furniture is managing supply v demand. Now, there’s probably slightly more to Google’s story than they simply plan to only purchase used furniture from now on. As a global entity, you could make the assumption that they have access to a scale of purchasing and partnerships that allows them to realise this ambition. Most likely, they have strong connections within real estate (to flag up when there might be moves that will release good quality furniture) and with furniture suppliers/dealers (who are increasingly positioning themselves to respond to the reuse of furniture, including the likes of reupholstering and re-engineering).
For companies that aren’t Google, this challenge is increasingly difficult to overcome if large organisations hope to follow in their footsteps and invest in used workplace furniture as the way forward. For this to work on a wider scale, we really do need the infrastructure and networks in place to better support this procurement model.
For any organisation, the chances of being able to the source the exact spec and quality of used furniture needed at any give time can be challenging. Many organisations opt for a mix of both new and used, or re-engineered, furniture as a means to finding the best solution for them while also considering their environmental impact.
Is there enough demand for pre-owned office furniture?
Yes, we believe there is. From our experience, organisations with redundant furniture are willing to adjust their procurement timelines if it means they can dispose of and source replacement furniture in a sustainable way. Businesses appreciate the significant impact office furniture waste has on the environment and the damage it can do to Net Zero targets. With that in mind, there is a definite need for a service that can help extend the life of redundant furniture.
Unless businesses have a spare warehouse sitting empty, then it can be seen as a gamble for them to take a consignment of used furniture and store it at their own expense until the right client comes along and sees the value in embracing the circular economy. Governments around the globe are signed up to tackle climate change, could this be an opportunity to provide incentives for taking on empty storage space to remove a fraction of the unwanted furniture that currently goes to landfill?
In the workplace sector we sing the praises of pilot studies as a means of learning lessons prior to wider deployment. Is a Government-backed (and industry-supported) pilot project worthy of consideration?