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Designing green consumption services for the mass market


We live in a time of increasing environmental awareness. For decades, the limits to growth in production and consumption at the expense of finite global resources have been addressed at a high political level. Yet, we seem challenged both to check this growth pattern and to deal with its environmental consequences. There is a lack in large-scale uptake of environmentally friendly consumption patterns, something that is particularly striking given the growing availability of green alternatives. Catchphrases such as collaborative consumption and the sharing economy epitomize the expected turn to sharing services and consumer-to-consumer (C2C) marketplaces. Nevertheless, the effect of these services on consumers' consumption patterns is nowhere near enough to check, for example, the growth in the consumption of new products.

Within the field of service design, it is argued that environmental challenges may be perceived as design challenges. In this paper, we will explore how the design of services can help reduce the environmental impact of consumption. We will in particular consider services for C2C reselling and sharing which, while promising, still remain niche services either in the sense of being taken up by only a small proportion of the consumer market or in the sense of being used only infrequently by the majority of its users.

While some niche services are truly valuable as lighting house examples of the feasibility and potential benefits of C2C sharing and reselling, the impact of these services is small compared to the impact of mass market services. Therefore, we argue that the key design challenge is to transform such niche services to mass-market services, where C2C sharing and reselling is considered the default option for mass market consumption. Hence, effort needs to be made not to make these services attractive for environmentally aware consumers, but to move them from their current status as niche phenomena to true mass market phenomena.

To expand on this argument, we make a brief review of the literature on customer experience to explore market mechanisms that may enable such a transition for current reselling and sharing services. In the current literature on sustainable services, it is shown that a major barrier for increased use of such services is that they are often perceived as having lower functional or experiential value than that of non-green alternatives, for example being more expensive, less accessible, or more cumbersome to use. Because of this, we will explore how an increased consideration of the functional and experiential value of sustainable services may facilitate their transition from niche to mass market services.

Following the literature review, we will present brief case descriptions of two such services, both associated with a research project on sustainable consumption. The first of these services, an online service for C2C reselling of used goods, is an example of how the value proposition of C2C marketplaces may be improved. The second, a company that buys discarded mobile phones and tablet computers and resells these on the second-hand market, is an example of the challenge of trust when reusing ICT. The cases and literature review is based on research conducted within the Conserve and Consume project (2014-2018;




  • Research Council of Norway (RCN) / 235526





  • SINTEF Digital / Sustainable Communication Technologies

Presented at

Johan Arndt-konferansen 2015




11.06.2015 - 12.06.2015





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