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Action to improve end user adoption of eco-innovations

Posted on 04/07/2019

The government is targeting to reduce carbon emissions from business and consumer activity by 80%, by 2050.

In the face of the government target to reduce carbon emissions from business and consumer activity by 80%, by 2050, end user acceptance of more sustainable market offerings has emerged as a significant barrier to progress. Some businesses have successfully developed solutions that have allowed them to increase their market share while reducing their environmental impact by as much as 90%. So why aren’t more businesses doing the same?

A new research project at Nottingham Trent University is exploring how end users can be encouraged by businesses to accept eco-innovations. Businesses are now being invited to participate in a survey to establish what methods make end users more likely to accept and adopt market offerings that use less energy and materials through the product life cycle stages of production, use and disposal.

The remarkable combination of 90% reductions in the whole-life environmental burden of some business solutions was associated with a business model that is important for its potential to deliver economic as well as environmental sustainability in the short term – so-called product-service systems (PSS). These are delivered by companies that control product design, manufacturing, use and disposal. However, the businesses’ control of the use-phase is unwelcome to many end users, who may perceive the changes made to product design and process – that allows their needs to be met more efficiently (for the business providing the solution)  – as differing too much from their experiences and expectations. In a B2B context, end users might be forced to accept an offering that is more efficient for the customer business, but even in this context end users can rebel. In B2C situations, more self-indulgent motivations and subconscious habit can also affect consumer behaviour. As a result, they might not take up a sustainable solution even if it makes good economic and environmental sense.

Businesses can take action to improve end user acceptance, however, spanning changes to their motivation, opportunity and capability to change. For example, they might educate end users in the benefits of new, greener technologies such as smart electricity meters. As with subscription printer-ink services, businesses might use regular reports to tell end users how they’re doing – from which they might find motivation to change. End users might even be specifically trained how to do things in ways that are more efficient, and – through direct interaction and data sharing – help businesses find out how they could further improve their products, processes and customer satisfaction. Availability can also be enhanced – as with the classic example of city bikes, for which many local authorities subsidise to enable people to swap automotive transport for a healthier and ‘greener’ way of getting around town.

Patrick Keen, a doctoral research student at Nottingham Trent University aims to improve the understanding of what change mechanisms work to encourage people to adopt more sustainable solutions for different types of activities and contexts. He says: “I think most businesses will value the opportunity to find out what behaviour change processes are most effective for different types of market offering, as it could help them decide how to reduce costs associated with energy and material consumption. This could benefit both their businesses and their customers. Product-service systems won’t work in every market, but the insight into the processes that encourage end user adoption of eco-innovations should help most businesses with their environmental objectives. I really hope that companies – especially, but not only those that have integrated a proprietary manufactured product into a service offer – will participate in the survey to allow us to develop and share knowledge about what works.”

Ben Peace, Head of Manufacturing at the Knowledge Transfer Network said: “The KTN is committed to helping manufacturers improve their business models to address the pressing sustainability agenda. This research project promises to deliver essential information that will make customers more amenable to sustainable solutions, potentially relieving the pressure which currently weighs on businesses, in particular, for meeting climate change targets. I would urge companies that have integrated their own product into a service solution to take part.”

 

The short online survey is fully confidential and offers the opportunity to gain advanced access to learning from the final results. To access it, please click on the link here.

More details are available online.

The survey is open from the 5th to the 19th July 2019.

More information, including contact details in case of any queries, is provided online.