The European funded "SusProNet" conference, held in Brussels, early June, has concluded that the concept of sustainable product service systems (PSS) is a promising vehicle towards sustainable consumption and production. Communication about the added value of the concept however should be intensified and simplified.
In the classic setting of "Concert Noble", Brussels, June 3-4, some 150 delegates discussed and reviewed the potential of product-services systems as a key means to realise sustainable production and consumption structures. "It is quite clear that if we continue our current consumption and production patterns, and export these to the developing world, we will end up with a disaster", said Ezio Manzini, Professor in Sustainable Design at the Politecnico di Milano and Advisory Board Member of SusProNet. "New and smarter ways to fulfil human needs must be developed".
The conference concluded that Product Service Systems (PSS) can be a part of the answer. They take the real need of people as a starting point in designing systems that fulfil them, and hence break away from the traditional thinking in products. This opens the mind for developing whole new ways of need fulfilment.
PSS has high potential to be accepted by policy circles as a main element of a wider European strategy towards sustainable consumption and production, said Bas de Leeuw (UNEP). He called upon the experts to also focus their work on how to use PSS by and in developing countries, which would enable them to leapfrog to sustainable consumption and production patterns, rather than following the old paths of the developed countries. Business, he said, was rather silent in policy meetings such as those organised under the umbrella of the ten-year framework on sustainable consumption and production.
Implementing the concept is something that needs to be done thoughtfully. Christian Kornevall, Senior Vice President Sustainability Affairs of ABB, and Lindsey Parnell, President and CEO of Interface Europe Ltd., gave clear examples of the drivers but also the barriers these pro-active firms face in their efforts of implementing sustainable PSS.
"We need to understand how we can remove such barriers. We also must accept that sometimes changes in framework conditions and incentive structures are vital to give sustainable PSS a real chance", said Arnold Tukker of TNO, manager of SusProNet, in the closing address. "It is also clear that we need to continue a platform for this discussion after SusProNet finishes at the end of this year. It forms a unique community in which the brightest thinkers in Europe not only discuss PSS innovation in theory, but truly look into ways how to apply this in practice. We will work hard with UNEP and other organisations to develop an appropriate home for this community in the future."
SusProNets next meeting will be a dissemination event, during which a number of other European PSS projects will be presented. Date: 13 October 2004, Brussels. See www.suspronet.org for the latest information and to register (free of charge).