Office furniture

Office furniture and furnishings is one of the most common product groups with regard to circular procurement. This is because the characteristics of furniture are relatively well suited for a circular approach. It is a comparatively simple product in terms of technique and has an economic life of 7-15 years. That makes it possible, both from a technical and organisational perspective, to close the value chain.

Partly due to the circular ambitions set out in procurement projects, most office furniture suppliers have made great progress with regard to the circular economy. When challenged in this respect, they are often able to present a proposal that is in tune with your ambitions.

Aspects of circular office furniture

For office furniture the following circular principles apply:

  • Circular design: designed for disassembly and standardisation
  • Circular use: reuse of components and materials

In addition, there are opportunities to apply circular revenue models, such as purchase/sell-on, lease or purchase of furniture as a service. This also depends on your needs (structural or temporary) and your organisation (private or public).

Determine which aspects are relevant to your organisation on the basis of your ambition (what do you want to focus on?) and your current situation (what furniture do you have now and what state is it in?). If appropriate, validate this with a market consultation.

4 procurement projects, 4 different questions

The fact that the sector is more evolved does not mean that ‘circular office furniture’ is a clear concept. Which circular principles you should apply, depends on your initial situation. Four examples include:

  • An organisation recently bought new furniture but needs to procure maintenance. Focus on extending the service life of the existing furniture and add incentives to prevent loss of value.
  • An organisation temporarily needs furniture due to accommodation changes. Focus on the temporary aspect and take-back at the end of the period of use.
  • An organisation needs new furniture and has an existing stock of suitable furniture. Focus on using (part of) the existing stock, either as complete pieces or, for components.
  • An organisation needs new furniture and has no existing stock nor an outdated one that no longer meets the functional requirements (e.g. health and safety) and is difficult to adapt. Focus on furniture that can be used as long as possible and explore high-value options to sell the existing furniture.

Safeguarding circular usage

A desk or chair has an economic life of 7-15 years, which makes it possible to make agreements regarding the conservation of quality over the period of use. A tender for office furniture should not only cover the provision of furniture but long-term maintenance as well. This will provide the supplier with an incentive to provide furniture that continues to function properly. In addition, maintenance costs will be reduced because the supplier knows exactly what they needs to maintain. This means that in addition to the purchase cost you also need to know the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for a particular period.

Safeguarding take-back

The economic life of furniture is 7-15 years, which is appropriate for take-back agreements. You should therefore explore the opportunities to extend the manufacturer responsibility, for instance by including maintenance in the contract and make agreements about a product's end-of-life. This provides the supplier with an incentive to maximise the value retention of the products they provided.


  • Office furniture is often a suitable product group to start with: on the one hand it does not affect the primary process, while on the other hand the market is relatively mature.
  • Determine your ambition based on your company's initial situation. This allows market players to submit a good proposal.
  • Include agreements on long-term maintenance and take-back in your contract to ensure value retention of the furniture.

Inspiring examples

Background information


INSIDE/INSIDE is an independent instrument to make transparent the sustainability of facility products, including office furniture.

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