The resource consumption of CIVAG is seven times less than the industry average.

The rental model from CIVAG increases the product utility seven times compared to industry average. Adding to that, the circularity level increases in the case of hardwood furniture 10% and of MDF furniture 60% compared to the linear industry, which has a single user.

The Furniture industry generates 10.78 million tons of waste in EU [1]. From this waste, 80% to 90% is incinerated or sent to landfill, while less than 10% is recycled [1]. This is the reason why efforts on implementing circular economy principles in the furniture sector are urgent to reduce waste.

Taking a wooden table as an example, it was found that on average people in Switzerland dispose it after 2 to 4 years of use. Then, the table is often left on the street, put in the attic or disposed. This corresponds with the large number of low-quality tables designed to last short time (fast furniture) reflecting the majority behavior in the market. On the other hand, there are some high-quality pieces that are thrown away much before the end of their lifetime (which can vary from 15 to 25 years). This is the case of the linear industry, where furniture is sold to only one user until the product is disposed.

To avoid shorting the lifetime of furniture, it is ideal to apply the circular economy principle of extending the use of a product. It refers to putting back the materials into usage, e.g. by providing the furniture to a new user. Some ways to extend the utilization of furniture are donating it to charities or sharing it. However, there is also a professional option - renting of furniture - which takes away the randomness of successful re-use and hence improves circularity by incorporating the expertise of how to re-use furniture.

A circular furniture rental company provides sustainable furniture for rent. By selecting furniture pieces that are durable, sustainable and easy to disassemble in order to facilitate re-usage of them. Furthermore, it is the job of a rental company to consistently finding a new home for furniture pieces. On top of that, its core function is to build up services and knowhow to maintain, refurbish and repurpose furniture. Of course, this includes taking back the furniture from the users when the rental period is completed. In order to make its impact tangible, CIVAG measures its environmental impact by using circular indicators.

The circular indicator highlighted in this blog post is the Material Circularity Indicator MCI [3]. It measures the level of circularity of a product from 0 to 1. Where 0 means completely linear and 1 completely circular. In other words, it measures how restorative the material flows of a product are, looking at virgin feedstock consumption, unrecoverable waste and its utility factor. The utility factor refers to the amount of usefulness, described in functional units.

In order to build up the knowledge on circular furniture, CIVAG created a case study of wooden furniture. We selected two products: A high-quality dining table made of hardwood oak and a low-quality dining table made of MDF. The objective is to compare the circularity of these two products with the rental model implemented vs. the linear industry without the rental model.

In terms of user, we selected a Swiss couple in their 30’s. According to our surveys, people between 25 to 35 years of age relocate every 2-3 years on average. With this in mind, the couple would have several options for selecting the dining table. In order to have a representative contemporary case study, we chose three likely cases reflecting the couple’s behavior:

  1. When relocating, a considerable amount of money is spent on furniture and its relocation. This corresponds with the fact, that Switzerland is one of the countries spending the most on furniture [4]. Hence, the couple would buy an expensive high-quality table intended to stay with them for 10 years including 3 relocations.
  2. During the recent pandemic however, 54% of the population did efforts to buy furniture at lower prices [5]. Additionally, furniture is regularly disposed during relocations due to convenience, lack of quality, restyling or new requirements. Therefore, the couple would likely buy a cheap low-quality table looking good for 2 to 4 years until its disposal during the next relocation.
  3. As an alternative, it was found that 25% of EU citizens are interested in engaging with circular economy practices such as renting products instead of purchasing them [6]. Hence, the couple could as well rent a high-quality table for an affordable price during 3 years until its return at the next relocation.

Further than quality and price, the three cases differ as indicated in Figure 1 by the restorativeness (circularity of the materials) and the utility (intensity and duration of use) of the product. In the two buying cases, the couple takes the table at the end-of-life to waste management, which in Switzerland means producing energy by incineration. This reduces the restorativeness on both cases, therefore the lines are lower and closer to the linear case in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Impact of product utility on the MCI

The high-quality table is made of materials that are more restorative (hardwood oak) than in the low-quality case (MDF). The high-quality table is highly restorative and more circular, as seen in Figure 1. This leaves the low-quality table out of competition in terms of circularity, which is why CIVAG does not offer this type of lower quality furniture in its portfolio.

A similar high-quality table was taken to compare the impact of buying vs. renting. When rented from CIVAG, the table would not go to incineration after the couple’s use, but rather to 4 additional renters. Hence, renting saves virgin materials and helps to market or upcycle furniture professionally. This minimizes waste. As a result, the product circularity reaches a level of 92%, and the product utility a value of 7.5, as shown in Figure 1.

By getting back and refurbishing the table CIVAG keeps the product in shape and overcompensates the higher intensity (+50% for rental compared to the buying case) of use within the rental periods and hence adds to the lifetime of the product. Furthermore it is important to mention that the circularity of CIVAG can likely improve even more by selecting more durable or restorative goods.

A circular rental model provides benefits not only in terms of economic savings, freedom from burdens of ownership, convenience, and novelty, but also in terms of environmental and social impact. Having more than one user for one piece of furniture:

  • Fosters optimal product selection for a high material utilization and ideal re-cycling
  • Makes quality orientated product selection superior to low-cost selection and thereby can stop the global race to the bottom of product and labor standards
  • Keeps the product in use and hence valuable
  • Elongates the lifetime with professional expertise
  • Avoids the exploitation of unnecessary virgin materials
  • Avoids unnecessary emissions during a premature incineration
  • Enables flexibility for furnishing without undue burdening of the environment despite changing individual needs (e.g. relocations)
  • Optimizes resources globally while leaving the individuals flexible

CIVAG business model increases the circularity level for hardwood furniture by 10% and MDF furniture by 60% compared to the industry average (having a single user). The remarkably high result is an effect of CIVAG’s two necessary fields of expertise as a sustainable rental:

  1. Knowhow about the physical product, its design, selection, maintenance and cyclability
  2. The organization and business processes, e.g. marketing and logistic processes, for leveraging the product value by focusing on managing the utility inherent to the product and acquiring additional users.

Have a look at CIVAGs furniture for rent


[1] E. Hannon, M. Kuhlmann and B. Thaidigsmann, "Developing products for a circular economy," McKinsey Sustainability, 2016.
[2] E. M. Foundation and Granta Design, "Circularity Indicators Project," [Online]. Available:
[4] "Alessandra Tracogna, 2013. "Switzerland Furniture Outlook," CSIL reports W01CH, CSIL Centre for Industrial Studies.," [Online].
[5] A. Tracogna, "Switzerland Furniture Outlook," CSIL Centre for Industrial Studies , 2013. [Online].
[6] A. Pirc Bar?i?, M. Kitek Kuzman, T. Vergot and P. Grošelj, "Monitoring Consumer Purchasing Behavior for Wood Furniture before and during the COVID-19 Pandemic," MDPI, Basel, Switzerland, 2021.
[8] A. Cerulli-Harms, J. Suter, W. Landzaat, C. Duke, A. Rodriguez Diaz, L. Porsch, T. Peroz, S. Kettner, C. Thorun, K. Svatikova, J. Vermeulen, T. Smit , F. Dekeulenaer and E. Lucica , "Behavioural Study on Consumers’ Engagement in the Circular Economy," European Commission, LE Europe, VVA Europe, Ipsos, ConPolicy, Trinomics, October 2018. [Online]. Available:
[9] "E. Hannon, M. Kuhlmann and B. Thaidigsmann, "Developing products for a circular economy," McKinsey Sustainability, 2016.," [Online].