FE436 Dematerialization Through Services - A Review and Evaluation of the Debate
Eva Heiskanen, Mikko Jalas
The Finnish Environment 436, Environmental Protection, p. 43. ISBN 952-11-1619-6 (PDF). Also available in print (952-11-0787-1)
The report investigates the possibilities for decreasing materials flows in the economy by a shift towards services. The report consists of a literature review and a critical evaluation of the arguments presented in the debate. The review considers different approaches to a service orientation, such as ecological restructuring, the MIPS concept developed at the Wuppertal institute, needs-oriented product development, as well as services as an environmentally oriented business approach.
The most typical examples and classifications in the service debate are also reviewed. All services do not promote dematerialization, and from the point of view of dematerialization, traditional services are not necessarily the most interesting ones. A common aspect in services with a potential for dematerialization is that they integrate the value chain.
In principle, a shift toward services has potential for dematerialization in a number of different ways. Professional service provision is a natural way to organize the shared and more intensive use of goods. The take-back and recovery of end-of-life goods is simplified. Professional service provision also facilitates scale-related gains, and the efficient, skilled execution of tasks. The economic incentives with respect to materials use are also somewhat different in services than in product sales. The business of a service provider is not dependent on a growth in materials throughput. In contrast, for service providers, material products are a cost factor that should be minimized. Reducing material flows may even form the basis of the business, as in energy service companies. Services do not, however, automatically lead to dematerialization, as many case-specific factors (e.g., the cost structure of services, and the role of the customer in energy consumption) influence the materials efficiency of services.
Environmental Counsellor Antero Honkasalo, Ministry of the Environment firstname.lastname@example.org