Leading furniture consultancy pledges to help end ‘world’s secret shame’

Andy Russell, Managing Director, Bureau Group. (picture by David Ho)

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A SCOTTISH office furniture and workspace solutions consultancy is helping blue-chip companies such as Skyscanner, Brodie’s LLP, and abrdn tackle what has been described as the world’s ‘secret sustainability shame’.

In doing so, Bureau Group has now delivered more than 30 Carbon Positive projects in 2022 alone. 

The Edinburgh-based commercial furnishing expert has become one of the most innovative and disruptive design-led furniture businesses in the UK with its strategy designed to reduce the millions of tonnes of perfectly good tables, chairs, and desks thrown out every year across the UK.

The company, which has completed 1,300 office furnishing projects across the UK and beyond, has now pledged to make sure every project they deliver is Carbon Positive. 

British businesses are estimated to refit or relocate their office space every three to five years, with most of the discarded equipment headed for landfill, no matter its condition. 

This has become particularly acute since Covid, with many businesses downsizing workplaces in the wake of more employees switching to hybrid/flexible home working.

Recent research has found that 1.2 million office desks and 1.8 million chairs end up in UK dumps every year, with some firms attempting to ‘greenwash’ this with carbon offsetting schemes which don’t directly affect this massive landfill contribution.

Bureau Group managing director and co-founder Andy Russell described this shocking widespread practice as ‘the world’s secret sustainability shame,’ and said he wants to reduce office-related landfill to zero. 

He said: “The waste involved in the refit, relocation, and refurbishment of corporate environments is shocking  – but people don’t seem to know about what is one of the world’s most pressing sustainability issues.” 

“It’s environmental vandalism on an industrial scale, pure and simple. Each year, tens of millions of tonnes of furniture are needlessly sent to landfill and piled high in warehouses when it could be reused to vastly reduce the amount of new products and inevitably their embodied carbon from being pumped into the marketplace.” 

“Too many companies make token sustainability gestures such as planting trees or paying for carbon offsetting, when they could make strides towards realising their sustainability ambitions by changing their approach to furniture procurement. In many cases it could be the single biggest change.” 

“Businesses celebrate planting trees to offset their otherwise carbon intensive activities, while relocating or downsizing offices, resulting in millions of chairs, desks, tables and other office furniture being directed to landfill, despite often being in perfect working condition.” 

“There has been no appetite to change the system because manufacturers need new products in the market. The greater need, however, is for circularity to be at the forefront.”  

The consultancy’s recent projects include a total renovation of finance firm abrdn’s Edinburgh headquarters. The Bureau team managed to redesign and furnish the new George Street premises into a stunning modern office built around circular economy principles. The unwanted furniture, still in excellent condition, was donated to charity. 

Led by husband-and-wife team Andy and Jennifer Russell, Bureau Group’s 40 members of staff have more than 200 years of combined experience in the commercial furniture sector. In addition to offering design, procurement and sustainability-led renovation, the agency offers a wide range of office services including office moves, health and safety aftercare and customised workplace cleaning solutions. 

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