Product Service Systems & Sustainability

"Industry and service sectors need to be involved and play a lead role in the sustainable consumption policies that currently are being strengthened as a result of the World Summit on Sustainable Development. Serving specific needs of consumers is their core business and to do that in a more sustainable way will be a challenging new business opportunity, while at the same time being responsive to societal needs", said Klaus Toepfer, former Executive Director UNEP.

Product Service Systems (PSS) is a new concept for business to improve their sustainability performance. The approach analyses the needs of consumers to be filled by products and services, and uses results as a basis for innovation. It is a natural next step after efforts to clean up production processes and re-designing products, which invites business to shift focus from selling products to selling utility. A mix of products and services can thereby meet client demands with less environmental and social impacts. A brochure outlines the concept. The Role of Product Service Systems in a Sustainable Society (PDF - 121 KB)

The function-based approach uses life-cycle thinking – and is the core of UNEP's sustainable consumption and production activities. A more elaborated explanation is provided in a UNEP publication targets industry and governments, academia and civil society, and illustrates the concept, showing key benefits and limitations by using company examples. The booklet describes 9 examples from all parts of the world. Product-Service Systems and Sustainability: Opportunities for sustainable solutions, July 2002 (PDF - 512KB)

The publication was prepared by CIR.IS Politecnico di Milano, Italy in co-operation with a consortium of leading institutes and researchers in this area from Brazil (University of Minas Gerais), the UK (Centre for Sustainable Design), Sweden (International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics at Lund University), China (Hunan University & Hong Kong Polytechnic), India (Indian Institute of Technology), and Tanzania (University of Dar es Salaam).