Product as a Service (PaaS) can provide users a flexible and convenient way to use products and provide producers and retail outfits a way to create recurring revenue. When properly instituted, this business model could prove to have significant environmental benefits. It could help the global drive towards more sustainable and environmentally friendly business practices.
Use only when needed
Businesses that offer products in the form of a Product as a Service model are recognizing that many products are only needed temporarily at critical junctures in our lives. They aim to make these products available for use for the requested period of time that is required by the consumer. This means that many people can access the same products, but only when they need them. In addition, the products are cared for by the provider, which means they will last longer while being used more times, by more people. Some examples of companies offering products as services can be found in fashion, such as the service by Circos for Maternity and Childrens Wear. Suit and dress hire for special events, such as weddings, have been popular product as a service offerings for a while now. In London, a range of corporate and government partners recently launched the Library of Things where items can be rented for the duration of time needed, for a small cost. Popular items include Tea Urns, Carpet Steam Cleaners, Gazebos and Air Dehumidifiers. Car-sharing platforms such as BlaBlaCar are another example of Product as a Service, allowing people to book only the portion of a journey they wish to travel, with a car owner that is already going in that direction.
Important environmental benefits
So what are some of the environmental benefits of Product as a Service? And how does product as a service contribute to the circular economy? Let’s take a look at a few of them.
1. Longer Lasting Resources:
The Product as a Service model is starting to break the link between resource scarcity and economic activity by offering products that can be continuously used and reused. This is starting to move towards a system that optimises resource productivity, as opposed to the more traditional focus on the optimisation of labour productivity. The longer resources are in use, the less reliance on the exploitation of virgin resources.
2. Maximising Use through Multiple Users
Products as a Service help to eliminate the idle time of products both at the time of being on the market waiting to be bought or sold, as well as the idle time that many products spend inside people’s cupboards, garages or wardrobes. This means companies that offer Products as a Service, through enhanced availability, can increase the number of users that gain benefit from the same volume of goods. Maximizing multiple users means needing fewer goods – for more people.
3. Extended life of the product
Product as a Service will often keep products in use for longer as the company will take responsibility for a high level of care for the products. This not only satisfies the customer, but also provides greater utility without needing additional natural resources. The longer a product can be kept in circulation, the less need there is to produce new products.
4. End of Life Solution
As most Product as a Service-offerings are grounded in an eco-conscious ethic of care, they are also much more likely to have an end-of-life solution in mind for re-using, re-purposing and recycling their products when they reach the end of their productive life. However, this is something that needs to be examined on a case by case basis for each product as a service offering.
5. Encourage Consumers to Share, not Purchase
Part of the pathway towards a more circular economy involves helping consumers to think differently as well as the ability to make different choices in the market to consume differently. While Product as a Service offerings do not offer all the answers for a circular economy, they do offer choice and an alternative to the current way of consuming. Also, Product as a Service make much more sense for people who only want to use items on demand, such as for events, or for special moments in life.
6. Only Use what you Need
Products as a Service give consumers the opportunity to use only what they need when they need it. This is part of an overall trend in simplification, de-cluttering, and an eco-conscious consumer ethic. People are realizing it is not necessary, or desirable, to buy everything new and that there are enough resources and materials on the planet for everyone. The key is redistribution and accessibility, with Products as a Service giving consumers access to an opportunity to be more deliberate and intentional about their consumption, while being more environmentally sustainable.
7. Save Money
It is highly likely, that using a product as a service offering enables the consumer to save money. While this may not be directly an environmental benefit, it is worth mentioning because helping the planet does not need to be more expensive, in fact it can often be cheaper. This gives consumers more money to put towards social and environmental causes in their local communities.
Product as a Service is a type of market offering that is in its infancy, but is surely set to grow as the full potential of this business model is realized. The environmental benefits of the Product as a Service model will no doubt become more quantifiable as the sector continues to expand. It holds the potential to become embedded in people’s way of life, as well as an important part of the corporate approach to environmental sustainability. While, shifting production and consumption patterns towards a circular and green economy will take a number of technological interventions, a reprioritization of investment, as well as a range of new business models to close the waste-to-reuse gap, Product as a Service is an important step in that direction.