Article: Easy wins with the circular economy

Article by Ann Beavis originally featured as a Circular Economy 100 blog

With cost savings so high on the agenda of procurement departments across the UK, the financial savings gained by developing or utilising circular economy solutions in the workplace have never seemed so attractive.

The benefit is, of course, not solely in the company coffers. Contributing to a sustainable society is an equally valuable motive for adopting a circular economy (CE) policy and it’s something that Premier Workplace Services recognised after feedback sessions with their existing clients with moves and refurbishment contracts.

As Premier’s Directors considered how to proactively develop the range of services offered to their public and private sector clients, they realised that an inevitable outcome of workplace moves and office refurbishment was that huge amounts of furniture was being sent to landfill, with companies then spending thousands on brand new desks, chairs and, often, storage.

I began to work with Premier to devise and develop a more sustainable solution for the facilities sector back in 2010, launching Premier Sustain in 2011.  At this time, the circular economy was rarely mentioned, but sustainability was becoming more important than simply environmental management.  Premier Sustain was devised around the waste hierarchy addressing the market short comings, helping clients save and reuse more.  We looked at the reason furniture was ending up in landfill.  What if these unwanted items could be refurbished? Remanufactured? Reused? Donated to charity?  Without placing an increased burden or challenge on FMs?

Even better than recycling: The Renew Centre

Premier’s investment in the UK’s only independent commercial facility dedicated to remanufacturing office furniture meant that their public and private sector clients could make the choice to prolong the life of existing desks and chairs rather than simply throwing away redundant furniture and replacing it with brand new.

Since 2011, Premier Sustain has remanufactured furniture for the likes of Tesco, BBC, Barts Health NHS Trust, Vodafone, Sony, Metropolitan Police Service, Cancer Research UK and numerous other clients, all of whom have benefited from financial savings and reaching sustainability targets.

The year 2016 in numbers:

  • 711 desks remanufactured
  • 1612 desks re-topped
  • 142 acoustic screens refurbished
  • 592 refurbished and reupholstered office chairs
  • 104 tonnes of furniture remanufactured
  • 178 tonnes of CO2 (e) saved

Watch the Renew Centre video

Case Study: Barts Health NHS Trust and Skanska

Sustainable procurement is all part of the furniture at Barts Health NHS Trust. Premier has supported the instigation of a repair and reuse platform across five hospital sites, working closely with estates and facilities teams to develop auditing systems to divert unwanted furniture from landfill and remanufacture items in The Renew Centre.  Since May 2016, the team has diverted 480 items (3.7 tonnes) for repair and reuse across the estate. The scheme has saved around £1200 in waste skip movements and approximately £20,000 in procuring new furniture. Refurbishing these items has saved an estimated 31.4 tonnes of CO2(e) a saving equivalent to taking six cars off the road for a year.

Read the full Barts Health NHS Trust case study

Continued investment for a sustainable future

As Premier’s growing client base quickly discovered the cost effectiveness of remanufacturing, the need for development of The Renew Centre grew exponentially.

With an investment of £1million over three years, The Renew Centre now occupies 5,000 sq ft, houses state-of-the-art equipment and provides ongoing training to a growing team of specialist furniture remanufacturers.

Premier also recognises the need to act sustainably in their own day-to-day business. Investments within their transport fleet, utilities and packaging means that clients are choosing a responsible company whichever of Premier’s services they require.

Case Study: Tesco Stores At Tesco Stores, sustainability targets and financial savings go hand-in-hand.

Premier has worked with Tesco stores for over 17 years, providing a completely integrated service covering move management, move logistics, interior refurbishment, IT and telecoms relocation works, sustainable clearances and office furniture remanufacturing.

One of the largest projects was the move of Head Office teams to Welwyn Garden City: Tesco needed to refurbish the new workplace, covering over 6,300 positions for over 5,300 staff from across 45 different departments. Through remanufacturing existing furniture at The Renew Centre, Tesco Stores saved £315,000 (approx. £200 per position) and in excess of 100 tonnes of CO2 (e).

Read the full Tesco Stores case study

Sharing knowledge

By publishing case studies, speaking at conferences and attending circular economy events, we share Premier’s remanufacturing expertise and experience, supporting other businesses in adopting a circular economy model and inspiring those in procurement and management to make financial savings by choosing to remanufacture furniture over purchasing new.

Premier Sustain’s knowledge and investment has meant that we are proud award-winners in the sustainability sector. In 2016 – our 20th year – Premier won a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Sustainable Development.

Rolling on with circular solutions

Having unlocked the huge potential within office furniture to reduce waste and budget, Premier is now employing the Sustain business model to tackle redundant IT and electrical equipment.  We have identified that many businesses have significant collections of redundant IT equipment taking up valuable storage space, without plans in place for disposal or recycling often because of security and data protection concerns.

Premier’s newly-developed Renew IT service is fully compliant with UK and EU legislation, with clear data destruction and protection policies supported by security-cleared staff and tracked vehicles enabling on-site or off-site audits and destruction of data.

IT and electrical equipment is tested, reconfigured and repaired for reuse, resale or donation through The Giving Back Project