Desko: Transforming the Furniture Industry with Buy Back Strategies

Inspired by the benefits of circularity, Desko set a goal of extending the lifetime of their products by adopting a new buy-back scheme into their business strategy.

case study

The Challenge

Office furniture is replaced on average every 7 years, most of which is disposed of with useful parts still intact. A significant amount of material assets are wasted with this take-make-waste business model.  In 1950 Desko identified the value preservation opportunity within the industry’s current systems and set out to transform the current standard.

The Approach

kastA ‘three tier buy back system’ was developed, meaning that the office furniture Desko sells enters a triple hand cycle. After a product has reached the end-of-use phase with its first owner, Desko buys it back at 10% of its initial cost. The furniture is then refurbished and sold back to the market for 50% of its initial price. The second time the product reaches the end-of-use phase; Desko buys back the furniture for 5% of its initial cost, refurbishes it and sells it once more to the market for 25% of its initial price. When the product reaches the end-of-use phase for the third and final time, Desko does not buy it back, but instead offers to dispose of the furniture and recovers certain parts that are still able to be refurbished or repaired for use in some of their other products.

“I see more and more companies asking for this. It’s truly a system change. We have a stronger relationship with our customers. We take the desks and chairs away…they don’t have to worry about it. And we can talk about what replacement items they need.” – Michael Kuiper, Desko

Desko’s innovative three tier buy back model not only extends its product’s lifetime it also has proven to be more profitable than the linear model that the industry currently holds as a standard. Additionally it aids in reducing the negative impacts that manufacturing companies have on the environment. For example, Desko’s Duo Slinger Desk generates 127 kilograms of CO2 when it is manufactured. With the three tier buy back system, the 127 kilograms of CO2 are spread over the product’s three lives, reducing the potential emissions by 93.5%, compared to if the product was made new for each of its owners.

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 Key Learnings

As a pioneer and leader in circular furnishings for commercial office spaces Desko has encountered many potential customers who are very enthusiastic about their circular interior concept. However, it takes perseverance to integrate the concept of circularity into a client’s mind and many companies are not yet ready to let go of their linear processes. They continue to buy new furniture with short life spans instead of considering the remanufacturing or refurbishing options of pre-used products.

What’s Next

The refurbishment of furniture for reuse prevents redundant demand for virgin resources and significantly reduces the environmental impact of the product’s manufacturing processes. However, the sustainability loop is not yet fully closed, waste is still generated and not all customers participate in the buy-back scheme. One barrier is due to the way customers structure their finances. Desko’s next goals are to transition customers to a monthly payment plan or create new furniture rental programs to further the company’s journey to circularity.


As a part of our member community Desko, shares in our ambition to make the circular economy a reality.
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