Dematerializing Our Economy
Selling the Service, Not the Product
The first questions to ask when looking at a product is: what is the need that this product is to satisfy? Is the 'need' real? What is the function I am buying?
Some Companies have realized they can supply consumers’ needs with less materials and energy use by focusing on the service sold. It is assumed this will cut down on resource and energy use. The service economy is the focus of many studies to better understand its benefits and pitfalls. The questions being asked include: Does providing services instead of products, result in fewer products being produced and does it therefore lead to dematerialization?
Sustainable Consumption will be a feature of more sustainable solutions. A key opportunity may come from the development of Sustainable Service Systems (3S) that focus on both function and system level innovations. For more information visit the Sustainable Services and Systems section of the Centre for Sustainable Design at http://www.cfsd.org.uk/
The European Union developed and exchanged expertise on design of product-service systems for sustainable competitive growth. An experts databased and collection of resources investigated the possibility of service systems. Visit the Experts database and other resources at: http://www.suspronet.org/
Interface: Covering Your Floor, Not Selling Carpets
In 1994, Ray Anderson, CEO of Interface, Inc. a leading maker of commercial carpet and interior furnishings, began changing his $1 billion company to become “the first name in commercial and industrial ecology wordwide”. For one of its lines instead of selling whole carpets, the company enters into a contract to keep the customer's floor covered with high quality carpet, but to do so by replacing worn out carpet tiles when needed. The company also retains ownership of its carpet tile making itself solely responsible for the maintenance, repair and ultimate recycling of the carpet tile. By assuming full life cycle responsibility, the company assures the recycling loop will be closed as well as maximizing the potential to reuse natural resources and avoid landfill.
The company has now developed a fully compostable carpet made of natural and degradable fibers with which it hopes to go into large scale production. The company has currently saved over $20 million from both its leasing and cleaner technology improvements within the manufacturing plant.
A similar analogy can be used for lawn or garden maintenance. Rather than selling artificial fertilizers and chemical pesticides, a company could market ‘healthy lawns.’ This then enables the use of integrated pest management, companion planting, integration of clover into the definition of ‘lawn’ and manual weeding to obtain the same result using fewer chemicals.
For more information, please visit Interface Inc.'s website.