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Binning the throwaway culture has real business benefits

A service-based economy – in which goods are leased rather than sold to save on resources – could help businesses build better relationships with customers and increase trust in their brands, research by Nottingham Trent University shows. 

A study by the School of Architecture, Design and the Built Environment examined how the throwaway culture could be designed out of society to save on the earth’s resources.

Dr Mariale Moreno, who co-wrote the research with Dr Naomi Braithwaite and Professor Tim Cooper explained: “We’re currently locked in to an ‘iron age’ of consumerism in which products have short lifetimes and people just keep buying more.”

“This situation is simply unsustainable. Even the use of recycled materials has an environmental impact, as energy is used to transport, reprocess and manufacture them. Inevitably, some raw materials will always be needed in the manufacture of some new products.”

“Serious consideration needs to be given by business and government to the economic and environmental benefits of manufacturers leasing goods that are designed to last, rather than selling them. By doing this, products will be less likely to be designed for a short life.”

A workshop was conducted with retailers, manufacturers, policy advisors, academics and consultants as part of the research. With a focus on the supply of washing machines, it explored industry thoughts on two sustainable business models: leasing washing machines and a laundrette model.

It identified that among the expected business benefits were new job creation, long and trusted relationships with consumers, reduced costs for manufacturers, lower consumption of materials and a greener corporate image.

Among the expected barriers were consumers still being locked into existing buying habits and the cost to businesses of setting up new business models.

Dr Moreno added: “Among the main drivers for businesses to work towards a more sustainable system is profit; particularly in relation to how brands could be enhanced and if the cost of materials rises.”

“The more scarce materials become, the more expensive they will be, which could be a real pressure point for the industry of tomorrow.”

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