Small household equipment toward sustainability
Elsevier as a Special Issue (IS) of CIRP Procedia
Small household equipment sector is emblematic of the overconsumption of resources and the mass production of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE). The increasing production costs (material and labor), the customer demand for more sophisticated products while their purchasing power decreases and stricter WEEE regulations become strategic issues for the viability of (…), a worldwide small household equipment producer. Emerging business models based on collaborative consumption, shared use or the “cradle to cradle responsibility” appears in this context as promising. This research concerns the functional economy, its implementation, drivers and impacts. The ambition of the action research (…) is to construct and experiment a rental service offer for small household equipment toward a more sustainable business model. The experiment phase is about to start in a medium-size French agglomeration. A local ecosystem of actors is involved to provide a satisfying service to consumers: the producer who has decided to launch the experiment and to find partners for it, an association specialized in fixing equipment and buying it again, a network of large- and small scale retail outlets. Associated to this project, as researchers, we have to environmentally and socially assess this experiment. We assume the success factors are not only dependent on a positive LCA but also on a cooperative and trustful partnership between stakeholders, as well a behavioral change and the ownership of the project by consumers. This paper aims at presenting this project and the multidisciplinary method for sustainability assessment. The first part clarifies the socio-economic and environmental context of the study and the specific issues linked to small appliances. Then, a review of current assessment tools and method provides an overview of current practices. Finally, the method is detailed and discussed. The method consists in 1- Upstream of the experiment, data collection thanks to qualitative and qualitative face to face interviews with service providers to understand their original motivation and concerns. Technical data is also collected and implemented in a comparative LCA (rental VS sales for a single product). This first step highlights the key factors. 2- The second step is to evaluate the influence and evolution of these factors during the experiment. Iterative improvement of the service will be done along the way. Interviews are extended to service users. 3- Downstream of the experiment, recommendations are proposed regarding the product and service design, organizational challenges and issues, and mostly, the impact on customers of this consumption model evolution. Special attention will be given to the transferability of the business model to another geographic area or to other economic sectors with a prospective approach.