With a substantial demand for good quality reuse furniture, one of Scotland’s largest affordable housing and community organisations, Link, has chosen to work with the CRNS Reuse Consortium.

Edinburgh based homelessness charity Four Square Scotland recently joined the Consortium to become the local supplier and a successful pilot project during 2020 has now led to a longer-term arrangement.

Link’s Community Investment Officer, Andy Jack said: “Working with Four Square and the CRNS Consortium makes complete sense to us; whilst helping us meet business needs it also fits with our wider sustainability strategy across social, economic and environmental themes.

Better for the planet and more affordable

“As an organisation, we are working towards solutions that are better for our planet and of course we want to find more affordable solutions too.”

“In some of the services we provide, such as temporary homelessness accommodation, there is a high turnover, which means there are substantial costs connected with replacing furniture.

“We had been buying new furniture but were delighted to have the opportunity to switch to reuse.

“Quick turnarounds are also important to us and we’ve been really impressed with the level of service Four Square provides.

“Working with Four Square means we are able to refurbish using good quality reuse furniture, often better than the new furniture we were buying – it lasts longer, and our tenants benefit from the improved quality too.”

Helping more people have beautiful homes

Jane Devine is the Chief Executive at Four Square. Their project, the Edinburgh Furniture Initiative deals in reuse furniture as an income stream for the charity, and also to support local people in need.

EFI furniture van“Having a nicely furnished home is a big deal for people who have experienced homelessness. One of the main objectives in our strategic plan is to have help people have beautiful homes. Our policy at EFI is that we don’t sell or provide any furniture that we wouldn’t have in our own homes and working with Link has meant we can support more people to have a lovely place to live.

“It’s a great partnership: we have been able to employ local people to deliver the contract; we have reduced waste to landfill; we have provided lovely furniture to people which is individual and high quality; we have generated income for our charity; and we have reduced costs to Link. There are no downsides.”

We are growing reuse

Lesley Campbell is the manager of the CRNS Reuse Consortium. She says, “Link and Four Square are both long time members and supporters of CRNS, the Community Resources Network for Scotland, so it has been a pleasure to introduce them to each other. We had been talking to Four Square about becoming a member of the Consortium, and the approach from Link needed an Edinburgh based member, so the match was perfect.

“The Reuse Consortium exists to provide strength in numbers in the reuse sector. Our members are all community based, doing great work locally. However, operating as a Consortium has meant that we have been able to secure a place on the Scotland Excel National Framework contract for provision of domestic furniture and white goods to local authorities and housing associations.

“CRNS provides training and ongoing support for our Consortium members, ensuring full awareness of the requirements of the SXL framework contract, quality standards of delivery and products. We also manage the process to make procurement streamlined and easy to access. Communication is key, and we develop relationships with our customers to ensure we understand their specific needs and meet their requirements. We always welcome feedback!

“Following the initial approach and on-line discussions with Link, they decided to go ahead with a pilot in July, to furnish around 10 properties. At this time, we were fortunate to be able to meet together on site at Edinburgh Furniture Initiative, to meet in person and look at the range of furniture. This allowed the team from Link to see the quality and advise on the style of furniture they would prefer. We got off to a great start!”

The pilot was a success, and to date, Four Square have supplied over 460 items of reuse furniture, to furnish 29 properties. The value of income generated to Four Square is over £29,000 and this represents around a 50% saving to Link Housing over buying new furniture. Over 15 tonnes of furniture have been diverted from landfill, and approximately 41 tonnes of CO2e saved.

The future is very exciting for this project. Having started during the COVID pandemic and dealt successfully with the restrictions of lockdown and the challenges that has presented, both Link and Four Square are looking ahead to continue to achieve significant benefits for both organisations, for the people they support, and for the environment. This work clearly demonstrates that we can work together to achieve a greener world, and a fairer Scotland.