What is it? NORNORM offers a subscription for office furniture and lighting to create attractive workspaces that invite staff to create their best work. The company is built on a circular business model, renting out items that are designed to last a long time. The service includes repairing furniture, replacing parts or sets as requested and refurbishing them before passing them on to the next user.
Why is this important? In the European Union, around 10 million tonnes of furniture waste are discarded each year (European Environmental Bureau, 2017). It is estimated that only 10% are recycled, while the majority is landfilled or incinerated (European Remanufacturing Network, 2015). One single workspace can create between 130 – 310 kilos of waste when no longer needed (NORNORM, 2023a). Reuse of office furniture is also highly uncommon, with estimates that less than 10% of office furniture is reused in offices other than the first one (NORNORM, n.d.a).
Main resource strategy: Closing the loop through taking back and refurbishing office furniture after use, then passing it on to the next user.
Other resource strategies: Slowing the loop by designing for long lifetimes and extending life with repair and refurbishment. Narrowing the loop by enabling higher use rates of items through renting them out.
Business model aspects:
- Value Proposition: NORNORM offers an office furniture solution to companies with 50+ employees (NORNORM, n.d.a). Customers can rent sets of furniture, for instance for workspaces, meeting rooms or recreational areas (NORNORM, n.d.b) while NORNORM takes care of maintenance. The business also offers planning for optimized layout, creating heat maps of busy areas and unused spaces in the office (NORNORM, n.d.a). Through an app, the user can notify any required repair and, if needed, can upscale or downscale the subscription without extra costs (NORNORM, n.d.a). If items are no longer needed, they are returned to NORNORM, refurbished and integrated into the next office layout.
- Value Creation & Delivery: Interested clients can send in a floor plan and will receive a suggested furniture layout within 48 hours. The furniture is set up and maintained by NORNORM, repairing or replacing items as needed (NORNORM, n.d.a). The subscription can be scaled up or down without additional costs, after a minimum retention term of three months and with a four week notice period (NORNORM, 2023b).
- Value Capture: The offer is priced per m2 of space and is costed at €18/m2 for a once-off set-up fee and then a €3/m2 monthly fee (NORNORM, 2023c). As of December 2022, the company was active in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, Austria and the UK, with plans to enter the US in 2023 (NORNORM, 2022).
Strategies for degrowth/ sufficiency (based on sufficiency strategies from Niessen & Bocken, 2021):
- Design: NORNORM designs furniture to be used for a long time. The company’s design philosophy highlights timelessness as they “want [their] pieces to feel as contemporary in ten or even twenty years time as they do today” (NORNORM, n.d.b, p. 5).
- No ownership & Green alternative: NORNORM applies a circular approach to their subscription model, taking back broken or unwanted items and repairing or refurbishing them before passing them on to the next customer. They also integrate already refurbished items into their workspace sets, such as refurbished office chairs (NORNORM, n.d.a).
Business model experimentation practices: NORNORM was co-founded in 2020 with Inter IKEA Development. Since then, it has catered subscriptions for over 200,000m2 of office space in over 500 office installations and keeps expanding its operations (NORNORM, 2022).
Sustainability outcomes: While no concrete numbers are available yet, NORNORM promotes its products’ longevity with the claim that “[p]roducts that previously lasted 3 years can now last for 30” (NORNORM, n.d.a, p. 10).
European Environmental Bureau. (2017). Circular Economy Opportunities in the Furniture Sector. European Environmental Bureau: Brussels, Belgium. Accessed 24 November 2021 at: https://eeb.org/library/circular-economy-opportunities-in-the-furniture-sector/
European Remanufacturing Network. (2015). Remanufacturing Market Study; European Remanufacturing Network: Aylesbury, UK. Accessed 24 November 2021 at: https://www.remanufacturing.eu/assets/pdfs/remanufacturing-market-study.pdf
Niessen, L., & Bocken, N. M. P. (2021). How can businesses drive sufficiency? The business for sufficiency framework. Sustainable Production and Consumption, 28, 1090-1103. doi:10.1016/j.spc.2021.07.030
NORNORM (2022). Circular economy leader NORNORM secures €110 million in scale up funding led by Verdane. Press release. Accessed 15 February 2023 at https://nornorm.com/press-releases/circular-economy-leader-nornorm-secures-110-million-in-scale-up-funding-led-by-verdane/
NORNORM (2023a). Circularity. Accessed 15 February 2023 at https://nornorm.com/circularity/
NORNORM (2023b). Company. Accessed 15 February 2023 at https://nornorm.com/old-home/company/
NORNORM (2023c). Designers. Accessed 15 February 2023 at https://nornorm.com/designers/
NORNORM (n.d.a). Circularity Book. Accessed 15 February 2023 at https://nornorm-web-assets.ams3.cdn.digitaloceanspaces.com/production/documents/Nornorm_Circularity_Book.pdf
NORNORM (n.d.b). Design Book. Accessed 15 February 2023 at https://nornorm-web-assets.ams3.cdn.digitaloceanspaces.com/production/documents/NORNORM_Design_Book.pdf
About project Circular X
Project Circular X is about ‘Experimentation with Circular Service Business Models’. It is an ambitious research project funded by the European Research Council (ERC) which supports top researchers from anywhere in the world. Project CIRCULAR X runs from 2020-2025. The project is led by Principal Investigator (PI) Prof Dr Nancy Bocken, who is joined by a multidisciplinary team of researchers at Maastricht Sustainability Institute (MSI), Maastricht School of Business and Economics, Maastricht University. The project cooperates with businesses who want to innovate towards the circular economy.
Project Circular X addresses a new and urgent issue: experimentation with circular service business models (CSBMs). Examples of such new business models include companies shifting from selling products to selling services and introducing lifelong warrantees to extend product lifetimes. However, CSBMs are far from mainstream and research focused on experimentation is little understood. The research aims to conduct interdisciplinary research with 4 objectives:
- Advancing understanding of CSBMs; their emergence and impacts
- Advancing knowledge on CSBM experimentation
- Developing CSBM experimentation tools
- Designing and deploying CSBM experimentation labs
This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, grant agreement No. 850159.
Using this information
When you cite this publication, please use the following source:
Circular X. (2023) Case study: NORNORM - Office workspace-as-a-service. Accessed from www.circularx.eu