The challenge to make new with old – yield consumption not quite there yet !
I spend time looking after examples of how brands integrate yield consumption in their production models, and try to keep my eyes open whenever I go shopping to catch every eco-friendly initiative I could identify. I have seen many good ideas, which illustrate firms’ good intentions. But I have to admit I have only seen very few actions that fit into the yield consumption scheme.
I wanted to write the present post on Uniqlo’s initiative to collect previously used products to give them to people in need ; or on Sony’s effort to reduce its environmental footprint, since I had bumped into a article on their new SoRPlas plastic, made of 99% of recycled content. But in both case, going further into details had me discover that neither Uniqlo nor Sony was changing the way it produced – and sold – by doing this. Both initiatives are courageous and useful ; but they are no game changers.
How could it be so ? My understanding is that setting up a yield consumption scheme is the best way to change for good (of course!). And here is a list of criteria firms should take into account when trying to integrate such a scheme :
- Rewarding financially customers who bring in their used goods ;
- Reusing rather than recycling ;
- Creating enough value when refurbishing the collected items in order earn money overall ; the price of a refurbished product should be higher (equal is not sufficient for the model to be viable) than the cost of collecting and refurbishing it.
These three key criteria are the pillars of yield consumption, in a company perspective, and will definitely be the topic of a future post. Of these three points, the third one is both the most challenging, and the one which retains the most potential. It has to do about creativity, about re-inventing a 50-year old consumption model : it’s where the most value is to be found.
Of course, realising that so few of the initiatives I have come across abide by these criteria also illustrates two limits of yield consumption as a way to go beyond the environmental challenge we face today : one is that it takes time to radically change the way we consume, hence the way companies will sell and produce. In a way, it explains why many eco-friendly initiative are still so timid, giving the feeling that companies are just putting a band-aid on a wooden leg. The other limit may be more problematic : yield consumption may not be applicable to all goods. That Michelin may lease kilometers instead of selling tyres does not mean that Uniqlo can find ways of creating ever more valuable T-shirts out of 5€ used ones. It also asks the question : what should firms do when they collect a product they had already refurbished once ? Or twice ? Is it not a pipe dream to think that such eco-cyclology is feasible indefinitely ?
These are challenging questions indeed, but as mentalities will evolve and reusing will get into the habits of consumers, things that are today unthinkable will become possible, and solutions will come up naturally. Right now, we just need to take a step into the vertuous circle of yield consumption.
Picture from http://www.innovationmanagement.se