The CLIC™ Chronicles: Now you can subscribe to a new sofa – the rise of furniture rental

rethink sustainability

The CLIC™ Chronicles: Now you can subscribe to a new sofa – the rise of furniture rental

Moving to a new home can be expensive for both the consumer and the environment. As 'fast furniture' accumulates in landfills with people moving from property to property, a solution is emerging - simply rent the sofas, beds and even kitchens that we need.

Like leasing a car, getting a subscription to a TV streaming service or even having a weekly vegetable box delivered to your door, you can now subscribe to the furniture for your kitchen, living room and bedroom.

A growing number of new companies now offer furniture for rent instead of purchase, joining established retail giants, which are shifting their focus to a more sustainable way to live.

As 'fast furniture' accumulates in landfills… a solution is emerging - simply rent the sofas, beds and even kitchens that we need

Sitting on a growing problem

Much like fast fashion, fast furniture is a simmering and growing problem for the environment. The amount of furniture discarded in America increased by 50% over the last 20 years1. In 2018, 9.7 million tonnes of furniture was thrown away, the equivalent to 80% of all furniture newly made that year.

A few years ago, in 2016, Ikea’s Head of Sustainability, Steve Howard, shared, at a Guardian conference that the “consumption of many familiar goods was at its limit”2. He explained that, “If we look on a global basis, in the West we have probably hit peak stuff. We talk about peak oil. I’d say we’ve hit peak red meat, peak sugar, peak stuff … peak home furnishings.”

In the UK, some 22 million pieces of furniture are disposed every year, with most of them being sent to landfill. Research points to a poor rate of repair with just one in 10 people considering fixing items in order to extend their lifespan.

In 2018, 9.7 million tonnes of furniture was thrown away, the equivalent to 80% of all furniture newly made that year

It was not always like this; 60 years ago, Americans threw away only two million tonnes of furniture and furnishings. But the growth of fast furniture - goods which are made in a variety of styles and which usually need to be assembled by the purchaser - has blossomed as an increasingly transient workforce shifts from one location to another without the need, or sometimes the resources, to invest in sofas and beds to last a lifetime.

As the piles of furniture mount, the damage to the environment from the production process of the goods is clear. But change is afoot and furniture companies are now facing up to their sustainability responsibilities accounting for more circularity with a special attention to repairing and recycling. Younger companies are also emerging to cater for the changing demands of consumers.

But change is afoot and furniture companies are now facing up to their sustainability responsibilities…

New solutions for new habits

Analysts now suggest that the priorities of people setting up a home are no longer the same. In times gone by, some couples might have saved up to buy a signature dining table, but today, many prefer to spend their hard-earned cash on experiences, education or even technology.  People around the world are renting for longer before buying their first home; the effects of the pandemic mean that people also simply may not have the money or the security to invest in big-ticket items3. Added to all that comes the effects on the planet of fast furniture, which flies in the face of the public's increased commitment to sustainability.

In the US, New York-based Conjure recently raised $9m in capital for its concept of "flexible ownership,"4 the idea being that once the consumer reaches the end of their lease term, they can either buy the pieces for a fair retail price, or swap them for new styles. California-based Fernish meanwhile rents out 'made-to-last' pieces of furniture, focusing heavily on the sustainability benefits of their model. Feather links up with companies such as West Elm. It aims for the young professionals based in apartments in cities including New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Baltimore, and refurbishes any pieces that break.

the effects on the planet of fast furniture… flies in the face of the public's increased commitment to sustainability

At the same time, corporates are looking at their sustainable footprint. In the UK, the stalwart of the high street, John Lewis, announced last year that it would be renting out sofas, desks and sideboards from a range of 50 different furniture items5. The shift has been directly attributed to a pitch for a new generation of customers who are used to sharing/renting items such as bikes rather than owning them outright. The British retailer was not the first to broach the idea. IKEA tested out a similar concept in 20196 in a bid to embrace the circular economy, i.e., the idea that goods are constantly reused and reconfigured to avoid them being disposed of. The CEO of Inter IKEA, which owns the IKEA brand, said at the time that the company would have a bigger interest in what happens to the product and that the consumer takes care of it7.

Earlier this year, the minimalist brand Muji launched its own furniture rental business across Japan with four different beds, two tables, three chairs and different types of shelves all available for between one and four years.

Smaller companies are also taking steps to meet sustainability challenges. The bed brand Silentnight has produced a mattress using eco-fibres made from 100% recycled plastic bottles. Another British firm, Sustainable Furniture, sells pieces that are ethically sourced and made to last.


A welcome development

Societal and lifestyle changes that minimise waste going to landfill are to be welcomed. Therefore ensuring that big-ticket items - be they bikes, cars or sofas - can be used by multiple people over the life of the product is also to be welcomed.

At Lombard Odier, we believe that the world needs to transition to a future that is more sustainable and regenerative - a future based on a Circular, Lean, Inclusive and Clean model, the CLIC™ economy.

ensuring that big-ticket items… can be used by multiple people over the life of the product is also to be welcomed

The level of furniture waste that is going to landfill is unsustainable not only for the raw materials the furniture is made of and the related transportation emissions but also for the dumps where they end up. There are of course more sustainable products on the market, but consumers have not been eager to embrace the higher priced items8. That one can now rent one’s furniture appears to solve a number of problems: catering to a transitional workforce; allowing people who do not have the money to buy a home to live in comfort without significant financial outlay; and, crucially, reducing the corrosive impact on the environment of fast furniture.

1 https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-02-23/renting-all-your-furniture-means-never-discarding-another-sofa
2 https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/jan/18/weve-hit-peak-home-furnishings-says-ikea-boss-consumerism
3 https://metro.co.uk/2020/08/26/rise-renting-furniture-why-homeware-rentals-are-becoming-mainstream-13177037/
4 https://news.crunchbase.com/news/mobley-is-now-conjure-raises-9m-seed-for-furniture-rental-platform/
5 https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/aug/15/never-knowingly-under-leased-john-lewis-moves-to-rent-out-its-furniture
6 https://ecommercenews.eu/ikea-tests-furniture-rental-in-europe/
7 https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/feb/04/kitchen-for-rent-ikea-to-trial-leasing-of-furniture
8 https://newrepublic.com/article/156208/fast-furniture-environmental-fiasco

Wichtige Hinweise.

Die vorliegende Marketingmitteilung wurde von der Bank Lombard Odier & Co AG oder einer Geschäftseinheit der Gruppe (nachstehend “Lombard Odier”) herausgegeben. Sie ist weder für die Abgabe, Veröffentlichung oder Verwendung in Rechtsordnungen bestimmt, in denen eine solche Abgabe, Veröffentlichung oder Verwendung rechtswidrig wäre, noch richtet sie sich an Personen oder Rechtsstrukturen, an die eine entsprechende Abgabe rechtswidrig wäre.

Entdecken Sie mehr.