Sustainable Product Service Systems: Potential to Deliver Business and Social Benefits with Less Resource Use

Sustainable Product Service Systems: Potential to Deliver Business and Social Benefits with Less Resource Use

David Ness (University of South Australia, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-114-8.ch010
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Abstract

This chapter introduces sustainable product service systems (S-PSS) as a means of achieving both forward and reverse supply chain utilization, leading to much improved resource productivity coupled with business and social benefits. It outlines the challenge to enable economic growth, especially in developing countries, with corresponding reduction in consumption of resources, greenhouse emissions, and waste. It is argued that S-PSS can make a significant contribution, not only in greening products, but also in poverty alleviation, employment generation, and social development. An Australian, industrybased product stewardship scheme for used computers is first outlined. The potential for S-PSS to take product stewardship to a new level is then explained, with reference to several Hewlett-Packard case studies and research involving Interface modular carpets. The author hopes that the potential for S-PSS to deliver business and social benefits with less resource use may be recognized, leading to necessary further investigation and research.
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The Challenge: Economic Growth With Less Resource Use

As Manzini and Vezzoli (2002) have acknowledged, developing countries need to go through a process of economic growth to reach a similar standard of living of developed countries, with some increase in consumption of natural resources to be expected. The challenge is to achieve necessary growth but with less resource use and “ecological footprint,” a measure of the impact of resource consumption and waste on the planet (see http://www.footprintnetwork.org/). If developing countries follow the extravagant consumption pattern of the west (footprint exceeding 5 global hectares per person) then the planet will be unable to cope with the pressure on resources.

In this regard, the western or Fordist “production-consumption model,” based on growth and throughput, is not the way forward. This model exhibits a linear material flow: resource extraction-production-consumption-waste; increase of productivity only becomes possible by using more fixed capital and consuming growing quantities of matter and energy (Altvater, 1993). The business application of PSS may act as an opportunity to facilitate the process of industrialization in developing countries, by “leap-frogging” the stage characterized by individual consumption/ownership of mass produced goods towards the more advanced service economy, thus avoiding some of the mistakes made by developed countries (Manzini & Vezzoli, 2002). PSS is increasingly seen as a possible and promising solution for the sustainable development dilemma, although a major cultural shift is required (Leong, 2006). This is especially so with some consumer products, where ownership is a symbol of status and style. Perhaps the biggest potential for PSS is in business transactions, where ownership may assume less importance.

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