Elite Contract Furniture

A change in direction

Based in Glasgow, Elite Contract Furniture provide a dedicated, tailored furnishing service. Well-established and committed to their customer base, they are now making a move towards a circular model that will see them give something back to the environment.

How far along is Elite in the shift towards a circular business model?

“We want to be a circular business – but we’re just at the start of our journey, so to speak,” explains Director, Greg Winston. “We’ve been manufacturing since 1954, but the circular economy is something new to us.”

Elite have kicked off this exciting shift with prototyping for manufacturing. “One of the things we manufacture is mattresses, so we’re looking at the design to see if it can be recycled more easily.

“We’re also looking at the whole business plan – to see how we can give furniture a second end-of-life use – to stop it simply going into landfill.”

What inspired Elite to make the shift to circular?

“I care about the environment, and am in a position where I can make a difference,” says Greg.

And of course, the more businesses ‘making a difference’, the bigger the impact. “It’s great to see other businesses trying as well,” agrees Greg. “The more businesses that go down the circular economy route, the more people are aware of it.”

How will your circular model work?

Elite currently uses recycled shredded clothing in their mattresses – which already neatly ticks a circular economy box. The problem? The materials are processed in England and shipped up to them. This isn’t ideal for their finances, or the environment. “We want to find someone who can process locally to us,” explains Greg. “Finding someone in Scotland would be ideal.”

This is just one part of Elite’s circular strategy. Subscription plans are another offering. The furniture they install in hotels can be refurbished to as-new condition once it reaches the end of its life, and used again and again. Elite can continuously take products back, remanufacture, and resupply, so clients don’t actually need to purchase them.

This is a products-as-a-service (PAAS) and remanufacturing model. Elite stay in control, and build a portfolio of contracts for a steady income.

And how did it make sense from a business perspective?

“It originally started with looking at one of our products and asking how we could develop its end of life,” Greg explains. “It’s grown into this subscription model – it’s been a year or two and we’ve still got a long journey ahead of us.”

Do you think people are becoming more aware of the circular economy?

“Yes – it’s being talked about more and more.  The people I talk to outside of work are more interested in the environment. It’s shifting people’s perceptions. The circular economy still has a long way to go in changing purchasing patterns. It’s changing things, but it’s slow.”

How have Zero Waste Scotland helped you on your way?

Aside from currently working with one of Zero Waste Scotland’s partners to create a circular business plan, Elite have received some support with navigating the second-hand market. And of course, facilitating conversations with like-minded businesses. “The networking is brilliant,” says Greg. “If you have an interest in the environment – or even if you don’t but think your business could go down that route – speak to Zero Waste Scotland […] They have put us in touch with other companies that have just started their businesses – ones on the same tangent as us.”

What advice would you give to anyone facing challenges in their journey to a circular model?

“Stick with it. Focus. Make sure you have plenty of time to set aside. Be passionate. Don’t let people put you off – just because one person doesn’t think something is a great idea, it doesn’t mean it’s not a great idea. Take a break and come back to it – another day’s a better day,” says Greg. “Every day is a challenge. Usually, asking a question is going to come up with more questions rather than answers – but keep chopping away at it. There’s an answer for everything. Just because the time’s not right yet, it doesn’t mean it’s not going to be.”

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