It’s easy to see that Bowie-based Installnet really gets it about working within the circular economy — a model that involves extending the life cycle of products for as long as possible.
Their green approach, which centers on reusing products instead of throwing them away, is the rage as companies work on their own sustainability goals.
Installnet just earned a Top Product of the Year award from Environment + Energy Leader for Ecoserv, its rapidly growing circular decommissioning program for surplus commercial furniture, fixtures and equipment.
With the commercial real estate world shifting toward a hybrid office model, Installnet, which posted revenues of $36 million in 2022, is bracing for a significant boost to its bottom line.
What Ecoserv provides is access to the processes, standards and metrics needed to recirculate workspace assets and deliver value to its clientele and the community. Since the program began in 2012, it has diverted more than 43 million pounds of waste from landfills.
To reach that level, some of the used furniture was resold or recycled, and some was donated to EcoServ’s network of nonprofit and community groups.
“During the past eight years, we’ve made donations to more than 2,500 organizations,” said CEO Dale Ewing, “including 38 decommissions in central Maryland during the past year.”
Corporate America is getting on board, too, as clients like Truist, Wells Fargo, Nike and others dot Installnet’s dossier.
While the company’s goal is 100% diversion, due to broken furniture, etc., “about 5% does end up in the landfill,” said Ewing. “Some wood products that have been painted, lacquered,” etc., “can’t be recycled.
“However,” he said, “we recycle everything we can. That’s how we reduce greenhouse gases.”
An interesting aspect of this business model is that Installnet simply works to help its customers meet their goals, which may or may not produce revenue. “We could work with the liquidator who wants a return on the furniture,” said Chief Operating Officer Jenny Levendusky, “or a nonprofit or a community organization.”
Today, the changes to the global commercial real estate market are opening new doors. “Companies are reimagining how office spaces work and how they can meet the needs of employees, so more furniture is being decommissioned,” said Levendusky. “That’s key to why we expect our EcoServ business to double.”
All told, how much? “We’re expecting companywide revenues to grow 20%,” she said, adding that the company is hiring project managers and coordinators.
She also pointed to rules from across the pond that should eventually come into play in North America. “The European Union requires companies to report on their progress toward creating sustainable business models,” Levendusky said, “and U.S. concerns will follow suit, not just because it will be required, but because it’s the right thing to do.”
Taking that stance is already a factor in doing business domestically, as more companies seek to engage with concerns that go all in on green. And taking that approach long ago is what’s distinguished Installnet.
“They go the extra mile with Ecoserv,” said John Challenger, CEO of Office Furniture Resource, in Boise, Idaho. “Green companies are getting more attention. Clients often ask us what we’re going to do with the furniture and like hearing us say, ‘Sell it, donate it or recycle it.’”
Mike Spears, president of Installation Concepts Inc., in Upper Marlboro, has had a long relationship with Ewing. As “one of 350 companies in Installnet’s network,” he cited its “unique software platform, which allows us and their clients access to every facet of the installation process.”
And he, too, cited Ewing’s high profile in the industry. “Dale is a unique person [in that he tries] to do what’s best for all parties,” said Spears, “regardless of whether it’s profitable for him or not.”
Today, Installnet is working with organizations around North America to find more efficient ways to operate. “While there is a growing cost factor with transport,” Ewing said, “we’re tweaking our offerings to serve as a catalyst in the new circular economy.”