Five ways to apply circular economy principles in the workplace – and save money
**By Ann Beavis, Head of Sustainable Development, Crown Workspace ** The idea of a circular office may sound complex but it’s easy to apply circular economy principles in the workplace and you can even save your business money.
The circular economy describes an alternative model to a linear business world in which goods are made, used and then disposed of. In a circular economy, the focus is on a more resource-efficient way of doing things, one in which waste is eliminated, resources are kept in use for as long as possible and then recovered, and natural systems are regenerated.
The workplace, and especially the office environment, is a natural place to start to apply circular economy principles because so many resources are used in its design and operation.
If a circular mindset is applied to the workplace then, from design through to daily operation, significant and measurable differences can be achieved delivering impressive environmental and social outcomes as well as opportunities to save, and even make, money.
Here are five ways to apply circular economy principles in the workplace, embracing the circular economy and saving your business money…
**1. Consider leasing or sharing instead of buying ** When reviewing assets to buy, start by considering whether you even need to buy something outright. Can it be leased or shared instead? Business models that enable leasing of products “as a service” encourage manufacturers to focus on durability and quality. Technology and sharing platforms are growing in number so are worth investigating for lesser used items.
**2. Look at the sustainability of the products you are buying ** If you tend to buy on price, start to take environmental criteria into account when purchasing for the office. Do you consider what products are made from and what happens to them at the end of their life? If you are putting out a tender for new products or equipment, it is important that appropriate weighting is placed on such factors. Look into whether eco-design principles have been embraced such as using recycled material within the structure or making products easy to upgrade or refurbish. Has the product been designed for easy disassembly to facilitate good reuse and recycling practice?
**3. Remanufacture and repair to keep resources in use longer ** A new way of working, breakages, an updated look and feel, or an expanding team – none of these mean you need new furniture. Remanufacturing, repair and refurbishment deliver significant cost savings as well as enabling you to keep existing assets in use longer and prevent waste.
Office chairs, reception seating and break-out furniture from all major manufacturers can all be repaired and reupholstered. What’s more, this can be in the colour and style of your choice. Chair bases, metal components and non-fabric chairs can be re-sprayed. Most office desktops can be remanufactured using the existing desk framework to reduce the footprint of workstations. Alternatively, to reconfigure desks to create an agile working environment, new tops can be remanufactured and used on existing desk frameworks.
If you are expanding, it’s possible to supplement existing stock. Large retailers of used office furniture will have access to a wide range of brands and styles and should be able to meet your requirements, saving you money over buying new.
**4. Sell unwanted assets ** You may be consolidating. Or, for whatever reason, remanufacturing and refurbishment may not be right for you. But it’s still possible to realise the value of unwanted assets whilst prolonging their life, benefiting others and protecting the environment - by selling good quality branded items.
Obtain the maximum return by employing the services of a reputable re-seller. If you choose a company which also has remanufacturing and refurbishment capabilities, they will be able to ensure you can make the most of these assets, regardless of their condition.
If you have specialist items, ensure that the company you choose can arrange auction for these high value assets.
**5. Donate assets with little or no resale value ** If there’s no resale value for your unwanted assets, it is still possible to reduce the cost of disposing of them, making more of your budget available for replacing them. Your unwanted furniture, IT and other office equipment could benefit charities, schools or social enterprises through donation. This doesn’t have to result in greater administration. Businesses with well-established donation initiatives can make it easy to benefit those in need and save on disposal costs.
Embracing the circular office can only have one type of impact on your finances, the environment, and ultimately on your reputation – a positive one.