ASU Center for Organization Research and Design

Towards Sustainable Production and Consumption: Preparedness for Product Service System Concept

by Michael Kuhndt; Burcu Tunçer; Christa Liedtke

Jan 1, 2004

Eco-efficiency strategies and policies, which have resulted in environmental gains that translate into increased resource efficiency and lower levels of emissions, in particular CO2 emissions along the life cycle of products and services, might be offset by rising levels of consumption on the demand side. Hence, both sides of the coin i.e. the system of production and consumption systems need to be assessed if more sustainable patterns are to be achieved. Establishing sustainable production and consumption systems can be possible via functional thinking practices. Functional thinking takes the focus from provision of resource intensive product to satisfaction of needs and wants through service systems, where material products are treated as capital assets rather than consumables. An application of functional thinking is the Product Service System (PSS) concept. Providers of PSS applications aim to generate profit not from selling as many material products as possible, but from providing a function of the product or service. Potential environmental benefits of PSS applications stemming from decreased use of virgin materials in production and lessened resource consumption at the use phase are being recognized. Applications of PSS can be seen in many sectors such as Information and Communication Technology (ICT), energy, transportation, food and in many forms such as remanufacturing, demand side management, chemical management services, car sharing schemes, functional designs, etc. However, supply and use of such applications might need considerable assessment of business practices and consumer behaviour. For business, designing and implementing PSS applications might require a new set of internal conditions such as shifting the business vision and adjusting the corporate culture to provision of functions. On the other hand, understanding of individual and social factors guiding the consumers' acceptance of PSS applications is required.This paper is an extract from a study, which is conducted with the aim of provision of a direction enhancing business ability to offer new or improved PSS applications with increased consumer acceptance and in turn enhanced resource efficiency. Applications in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector are chosen as the focus of the paper. Although it is debated that this fast developing sector can potentially contribute to dematerialisation of systems, limitations within the sector still remain unclear. Here, it is aimed to suggest an overview of the aspects for business preparedness and consumer acceptance of PSS applications providing particular functions in the ICT sector. The focus is on the company level dynamics, despite it is recognized that factors of macro level preparedness such as infrastructure availability, economic and social conditions, public support, etc. are essential to consider for system preparedness.