Rather than simply retweet two articles that support concepts we found noteworthy, we decided to combine the two and highlight the innovation (and collaboration) displayed when companies try something “new.”

Both examples showcase a commitment to sustainability, circularity, and producing less waste while delivering an opportunity to have customers participate in the process

The first article we want to share was published via Vox (see article here, referencing an FT interview with IKEA’s Torbjorn Loof. In the article (which we highly recommend), we learned that IKEA is piloting a “scalable” rental concept for its furniture.

To quote directly from the piece:

“We will work together with partners so you can actually lease your furniture,” said Loof. “When that leasing period is over, you hand it back and you might lease something else. And instead of throwing those away, we refurbish them a little and we could sell them, prolonging the life cycle of the products.”

Sure, a rental or subscription model is not new (our team has worked on our share of those over the years). The sharing economy is familiar enough. But it is always particularly refreshing to read that a maker-retailer is also focusing its business model on “prolonging the life cycle of the products” vs just trying to pump out as much new product as possible without giving much thought to where it all ends up (aka linear consumption). It also hints at IKEA’s willingness to aggressively shape its model in response to customer-led shifts in behavior when it comes to demands for waste minimization and sustainability.

The other article via The Japan Times (see article here) is another encouraging instance of makers taking some initiative to lessen waste and embrace circulatory (while including the customer). In this case, Asics Japan announced it will be collecting donations of used sportswear and converting components of these materials into Team Japan’s uniforms for the 2020 Tokyo and Paralympic Games.

In both cases, the end user is becoming part of the supply chain, which in many ways gives the consumer a stake and convenient opportunity to participate in the circular economy and limit waste. Moreover, the “win win” gives the maker a cost effective way of procuring raw materials!

Only time will tell how these two pilots pan out, but our hope (and expectation) is that if brands and customers continue to work together and collaborate throughout the entire process, really cool ideas can be tested, vetted and implemented.

Finally, as noted in the Japan Times article, three-time Olympic champion Saori Yoshida confirms one of the things we love most about companies looping customers into the circular process:

“Through this project, people from around the country can feel like they’re part of the team,” said Yoshida, a three-time Olympic and 14-time world champion. “It feels nice to make a different kind of contribution to the games effort.”

Part of the team.

Love it.