Blog: Sustainability can encompass a product’s entire lifecycle

Anne Flynn Wear//Assistant Managing Editor//August 9, 2021

A survey conducted last year by Boston Consulting Group found that 75% of American consumers view sustainability as “important” or “very important” with more than one-third reporting they have at some point switched from their preferred brand to a more environmentally friendly alternative.

When most people answer survey questions about sustainability they typically think about the manufacturing process. But sustainability is about more than just how a product is made; it extends to the whole product lifecycle.

With that in mind, a few home furnishings companies are switching to a model where they buy back their used furniture in return for offering consumers a discount to purchase new product. The motivation for many is to keep furniture out of the landfill and create what amounts to a second and even a third life for the product.

Brick-and-mortar and DTC companies such as Floyd, Ikea and Sabai, as well as rental companies such as Cort, have created programs designed to extend the lifecycle of their furniture.

Floyd recently launched a new circular online marketplace called Full Cycle that will offer used and imperfect Floyd furniture to consumers nationwide. Founder Kyle Hoff said the company plans to refurbish used and imperfect products to ensure that the pieces will most likely never end up in a landfill.

DTC company Sabai has a two-pronged approach. The first part of the Sabai Standard allows consumers to have easy access to repair damaged parts of their furniture. The second part offers consumers the ability to sell back older Sabai sofas.  Co-founder Phantila Phataraprasit said this extends the life of their furniture in a way that’s both financially and ecologically beneficial.

Then there is retail powerhouse Ikea. The company has expanded its plan to back used furniture to its customers in 27 countries as part of its efforts to become more environmentally friendly. Ikea is attempting to build a circular business model in which its materials and products are resold or recycled. Ikea U.S. isn’t currently offering this buyback option but has plans to implement it in the future.

Rental furniture company Cort has launched a new section of its website that allows customers to buy secondhand and previously leased furniture in addition to new pieces. The used furniture may have one or two small imperfections, and the bargain furniture section has more noticeable imperfections and is priced lower than the used furnishings. This results in furniture that has a significantly lengthened lifespan.

Whether the motivation is a tight budget or the creative fun of upcycling an older piece of furniture, buying a well-made secondhand piece of furniture is often more appealing to Millennials and Generation Z consumers. Companies that consider this and take steps to make sustainability a reality both in the manufacturing process and for the life of the product might find these generations to be more brand-loyal in the future.

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