MAKING THE CIRCULAR ECONOMY SOCIAL
Annalee Sawiak, CEO & Founder, Furniture Link
Sustainable Circular Economy Solutions for End of Use Furniture are within our grasp.
It has been a crazy three months.
Together with Dan Kershaw, Executive Director at Furniture Bank in Toronto, I got tired of hearing how hard it would be to take the huge flow of unwanted furniture from homes and returns and give it to people who need it. So, we set out to change the way it is done. Dan and his team not only let us test out our ideas, but they also lent their ‘back end’ of administrative services, marketing, donation receipts and item tracking to another furniture bank on a shared cost basis to launch a new Furniture Bank for Barrie’s Redwood Park Communities in days. Their know how made the magic happen.
Using the experience provided by a 2018 trial with 1-800-Got-Junk? and Furniture Bank, we took our pitch to 3 different moving companies – one national player, You Move Me, associated with
1-800-Got-Junk?, one local Toronto start up and one established local Barrie, Ontario mover. Presented with a unique opportunity like this they all said YES! With these 3 trials we can move forward with confidence (and more than a little excitement) to change the landscape in communities across Canada and the USA.
What Were These Projects?
Monetize Outsource Furniture Removal and Keep Furniture Coming
Our trials showed us how charities can exit the trucking loop. We directed inbound calls and e mails asking for furniture to be picked up from homes over to a collaborator. The collaborator arranged the furniture removal pickup and brought furniture to the charity partner who gave the donors a receipt for the value of furniture donated. Our charity partner kept the furniture coming in the doors and the cash generated pays for some of the administrative costs of running the charity. These results demonstrate that a charity does not have to deal with running a trucking company or explaining to annoyed people why charities don’t provide free services – they can leverage existing commercial transport solutions instead.
Furniture Link facilitated a 20 Week Pilot with Second Closet, and Furniture Bank
Scorecard? The Furniture Bank charity took in 10% more furniture, filled 185 more homes and raised $10,000 for administrative costs for the program
Outsource Delivery at Low Rates
Those people receiving the furniture are our stakeholders and we do not like making them wait for their furniture. On the other hand, our charity partners struggle with the high cost of maintaining a trucking fleet. With a little innovative pricing and scheduling we were able to outsource and be able to offer weekend delivery service. An added bonus? The faster the furniture moves out the door, the more furniture we can take and the more homes we can fill.
You Move Me & Furniture Bank in Toronto undertaking delivery pilot.
Those Returned Mattress and Furniture Purchases Make a Difference.
Ever wonder what happens to returned furniture? Lots of moving and removal companies are paid to pick up returned goods and most of the retailers want to see them stay out of landfill. We showed that using collaboration with movers, retailers and furniture charities, we could move those goods in to reuse, track the impact and provide furniture charities with some cash flow to support their operations. When the retailers specify that the movers collaborate with our charity partners, our families get great stuff and we don’t trash usable furniture – a win win win for all parties. A great example is how Endy Mattress has ensured furniture returns create better homes in support of charities like Furniture Bank in Toronto.
What did we prove?
We can drive socially and environmentally minded new business to collaborating moving and removal companies without additional customer acquisition costs.
These same socially minded and ecologically conscious retailers enhance their brand to their customers.
We can share the community impact of this upside with the collaborators and use it to put more furniture in the hands of charities.
The charities can focus on doing what they were created to do – help their stakeholders in communities across Canada and the USA.
Everybody wins – companies, retailers, donors, governments, charities and the families who most need us to be supporting them as they get their new homes started!
So, what makes us so excited?
These experiments validate 8 key findings that will drive Furniture Link in support of the Furniture Bank Network going forward:
- We’ve demonstrated there is absolutely enough unwanted furniture moving around communities to supply local furniture reuse charities (aka Furniture Banks).
- We’ve seen that when furniture charities do not have to hustle to run trucking operations, and have reliable streams of funds and furniture that can focus on helping their core stakeholders – the mothers, fathers and children moving from homelessness into homes and a new bright future.
- We’ve demonstrated the right moving companies will make great partners when we create the right collaborative arrangements that motivate a sustainable financial model.
- We can make it easy for all business and households to direct furniture into reuse and away from landfill.
- We can direct new business to these moving and removal companies with a social impact mandate.
- We can make our furniture reuse charities more financially stable without public funding.
- We are creating a new self-financing system that has social impact, waste reduction, without new infrastructure costs.
- We’ve seen this activity will play a pivotal role in creating new and expanding furniture reuse charities in any community that wants to support housing first homes second programs.
Now that we know we can do it, what is stopping us? Nothing.
Let’s get out there and make it happen.