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Special Issue "Achieving a Sustainable Circular Economy through Product/Service-Systems"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Economic, Business and Management Aspects of Sustainability".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 15 August 2019.

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Prof. Tim C. McAloone

Section of Engineering Design and Product Development, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Technical University of Denmark, Kongens Lyngby, Denmark
Website | E-Mail
Interests: product development; eco-design; sustainable development; innovation in product development; product/service-systems (PSS)
Guest Editor
Assoc. Prof. Daniela C. A. Pigosso

Section of Engineering Design and Product Development, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Technical University of Denmark, Kongens Lyngby, Denmark
Website | E-Mail
Interests: ecodesign; eco-innovation; sustainability; methods and tools; best practices; circular economy; engineering design; innovation in product development; maturity modelling

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Circular Economy (CE) is increasingly regarded as a promising approach to operationalising goals and supporting the transition towards a more sustainable society, by enhancing competitiveness, economic growth and environmental performance in many parts of modern society. Achieving CE will require fundamental changes throughout the value chain, from innovation, product design and production processes all the way to end of use, and through the fostering of new business models and consumption patterns.

By focusing on the development, provision and operation of product/service-systems (PSS), rather than merely on the product, the opportunity arises to decouple the creation of value and wealth from resource and energy consumption, through elimination of waste and maximisation of value delivered. PSS is thus one promising means to achieving improved flows of value and materials, moving from traditional linear value creation models, towards circular product/service offerings, where value delivery is the object of transaction, rather than artefacts.

In this Special Issue we invite articles reporting on research, where PSS is being studied as a means to CE, where the transition to CE is studied from the perspective of a number of business processes (incl. business models, design and innovation, value chain and closing the loop), and where the sustainability potential or actual performance of CE solutions is evaluated.

Prof. Tim C. McAloone
Assoc. Prof. Daniela C. A. Pigosso
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1700 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Product/Service-Systems (PSS)
  • IoT and digitalisation
  • circular economy
  • sustainable product design
  • business models
  • value chain
  • closing the loops
  • sustainability assessment
  • servitisation
  • eco-innovation

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle
Configuring New Business Models for Circular Economy through Product–Service Systems
Sustainability 2019, 11(13), 3727; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11133727
Received: 6 June 2019 / Revised: 4 July 2019 / Accepted: 5 July 2019 / Published: 8 July 2019
PDF Full-text (9742 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text | Supplementary Files
Abstract
Product—service systems (PSSs) are often outlined as potential enablers of new business models for circular economy. However, not all business models based on product-service systems have superior circularity potential. This research demonstrates how the application of a previously developed business model configurator for [...] Read more.
Product—service systems (PSSs) are often outlined as potential enablers of new business models for circular economy. However, not all business models based on product-service systems have superior circularity potential. This research demonstrates how the application of a previously developed business model configurator for circular economy can support the design and assessment of customer value, economic and resource decoupling potential for product-service system business models in practice. By applying action research in two Nordic manufacturing companies from the furniture sector, different business model concepts based on product-service systems were proposed and assessed. Results indicate positive uptake by companies regarding the usefulness of the obtained outcomes. This research identified two key findings about ‘product-service system business models for circular economy’: (i) their configuration should fulfil certain simultaneous conditions—i.e. superior customer value, economic growth, and resource decoupling potentialto contribute to circular economy; and (ii) they are often ‘niche solutions’, fulfilling specific needs and customer segments, and more likely to flourish with certain types/characteristic of products, segments or geographical locations. Lastly, a framework outlining the conditions and trade-offs for assessing the circularity potential of business models based on product-service systems is introduced as one of the key contributions. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Leveraging Circular Economy through a Methodology for Smart Service Systems Engineering
Sustainability 2019, 11(13), 3517; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11133517
Received: 19 April 2019 / Revised: 10 June 2019 / Accepted: 14 June 2019 / Published: 27 June 2019
PDF Full-text (2560 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Product Service Systems (PSS) and Smart Services are powerful means for deploying Circular Economy (CE) goals in industrial practices, through dematerialization, extension of product lifetime and efficiency increase by digitization. Within this article, approaches from PSS design, Smart Service design and Model-based Systems [...] Read more.
Product Service Systems (PSS) and Smart Services are powerful means for deploying Circular Economy (CE) goals in industrial practices, through dematerialization, extension of product lifetime and efficiency increase by digitization. Within this article, approaches from PSS design, Smart Service design and Model-based Systems Engineering (MBSE) are combined to form a Methodology for Smart Service Architecture Definition (MESSIAH). First, analyses of present system modelling procedures and systems modelling notations in terms of their suitability for Smart Service development are presented. The results indicate that current notations and tools do not entirely fit the requirements of Smart Service development, but that they can be adapted in order to do so. The developed methodology includes a modelling language system, the MESSIAH Blueprinting framework, a systematic procedure and MESSIAH CE, which is specifically designed for addressing CE strategies and practices. The methodology was validated on the example of a Smart Sustainable Street Light System for Cycling Security (SHEILA). MESSIAH proved useful to help Smart Service design teams develop service-driven and robust Smart Services. By applying MESSIAH CE, a sustainable Smart Service, which addresses CE goals, has been developed. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Circular Innovation Framework: Verifying Conceptual to Practical Decisions in Sustainability-Oriented Product-Service System Cases
Sustainability 2019, 11(12), 3248; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11123248
Received: 23 May 2019 / Revised: 4 June 2019 / Accepted: 6 June 2019 / Published: 12 June 2019
PDF Full-text (2254 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Product–service systems (PSSs) have significant sustainability potential. However, limited knowledge is available on the choices to develop circular PSS solutions. The goal of this paper is to provide a circular innovation framework containing circular strategies to facilitate the decision-making in PSS circular innovation. [...] Read more.
Product–service systems (PSSs) have significant sustainability potential. However, limited knowledge is available on the choices to develop circular PSS solutions. The goal of this paper is to provide a circular innovation framework containing circular strategies to facilitate the decision-making in PSS circular innovation. A systematic literature review in combination with content analysis underpinned this research. The strategies were investigated in 45 PSS cases from the literature. A coding system was designed and employed to identify and organize the circular strategies and practices. The statistics techniques employed were frequency and co-occurrence analysis, which aimed to describe the synergies among strategies. The framework proposed contains twenty-one circular strategies. The practical perspective comprises the seventy-seven practices used for the operationalization of strategies. The framework can assist organizations in making strategic to tactical decisions when developing circular PSS solutions. The paper provides a panorama of the strategy applications among the PSS types. Finally, the research approach can be employed to continuously develop an understanding of the application of circular strategies in PSS and other fields. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Unintended Circularity?—Assessing a Product-Service System for its Potential Contribution to a Circular Economy
Sustainability 2019, 11(10), 2725; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11102725
Received: 27 March 2019 / Revised: 26 April 2019 / Accepted: 29 April 2019 / Published: 14 May 2019
PDF Full-text (1509 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Product-service systems (PSSs) are seen as valuable facilitators of a circular economy (CE) on a business level. However, that PSSs contribute to a CE is not a given and is determined by the chosen PSS business model and strategy applied throughout the entire [...] Read more.
Product-service systems (PSSs) are seen as valuable facilitators of a circular economy (CE) on a business level. However, that PSSs contribute to a CE is not a given and is determined by the chosen PSS business model and strategy applied throughout the entire lifecycle. Thus, in order to support companies in implementing circular business models such as PSSs, an increasing number of frameworks and methods have been proposed in prior research. This article hypothesizes that many industrial companies are expanding to become PSS providers with neither such support nor a strong sustainability focus. There is a gap in the literature regarding the potential contribution of such PSSs to a CE. Thus, the research reported aims to provide initial insight regarding whether unintended circularity, i.e., an unintended contribution to a CE, may occur when becoming a PSS provider. Applying and adapting an existing framework for the assessment of PSSs’ potential contribution to a CE, the use-oriented PSS of an industrial company was assessed in-depth. Results regarding the relative resource reduction and the prospect of achieving absolute resource decoupling are reported and discussed. While relative improvements over product sales are identified, e.g., resulting from end-of-life efforts on reuse and remanufacturing, opportunities for additional enhancement are found, e.g., in adjustments of the PSS design process. Concerning absolute resource decoupling, a fundamental challenge lies in the use-oriented PSS’s dependency on an increasing number of physical components as the company’s business expands. This article advances the discussion on PSSs’ potential contributions to a CE with an in-depth empirical study. For practitioners, the results reported expand on important aspects of efficient and effective PSS provision throughout the lifecycle. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Multi-Criteria Decision Making for Sustainability and Value Assessment in Early PSS Design
Sustainability 2019, 11(7), 1952; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11071952
Received: 1 March 2019 / Revised: 15 March 2019 / Accepted: 27 March 2019 / Published: 2 April 2019
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (2505 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Sustainability is increasingly recognized as a key innovation capability in the organization. However, it is not always evident for manufacturers how sustainability targets shall be “mixed and matched” with more traditional objectives—such as quality, time, cost, and performances—when designing and developing solutions. The [...] Read more.
Sustainability is increasingly recognized as a key innovation capability in the organization. However, it is not always evident for manufacturers how sustainability targets shall be “mixed and matched” with more traditional objectives—such as quality, time, cost, and performances—when designing and developing solutions. The emergence of “servitization” and product-service systems (PSS) further emphasizes the need for making thoughtful trade-offs between technical aspects, business strategies, and environmental benefits of a design. The objective of this paper is to investigate how multi-criteria decision making (MCDM) models shall be applied to down-select PSS concepts from a value perspective, by considering sustainability as one of the attributes of a design contributing to the overall value of a solution. Emerging from the findings of a multiple case study in the aerospace and construction sector, the paper presents a five-step iterative process to support decision making for sustainable PSS design, which was further applied to design an electrical load carrier. The findings show that the proposed approach creates a “hub” where argumentations related to “value” and “sustainability” of PSS solution concepts can be systematically captured in a way that supports the discussion on the appropriate quantification strategy. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Making Ours Mine: Increasing Consumer Acceptance of Access-Based PSS through Temporary Product Customisation
Sustainability 2019, 11(1), 274; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11010274
Received: 16 November 2018 / Revised: 19 December 2018 / Accepted: 2 January 2019 / Published: 8 January 2019
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Abstract
Access-based product-service systems (AB-PSS) have the potential to lower environmental impacts. Currently, a lack of consumer acceptance and, consequently, low adoption levels of AB-PSS are challenges preventing the realisation of their sustainability potential. This study proposes temporary product customisation to lower barriers for [...] Read more.
Access-based product-service systems (AB-PSS) have the potential to lower environmental impacts. Currently, a lack of consumer acceptance and, consequently, low adoption levels of AB-PSS are challenges preventing the realisation of their sustainability potential. This study proposes temporary product customisation to lower barriers for the acceptance of AB-PSS. We investigated whether customisation through modifying the appearance of an easily changeable attribute of a typical product, and thereby changing the product personality, could improve consumer acceptance while limiting the impact on sustainability. To explore this, a 3 × 1 between-group design experiment was conducted with consumers who are familiar with offerings similar to the AB-PSS we tested. The results indicate that respondents have a strong preference, as is widely recognised, for typical products in an AB-PSS. Infusing meaning and intangible value into accessed products through customisation can simultaneously lead to wider acceptance in the market and individual consumers’ satisfaction. Our findings confirm that consumer acceptance increases if a product fulfils intangible needs along with functionality needs. The results can be used to think about new ways in which product design can enhance the diffusion of AB-PSS in the consumer market. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Enabling Factors and Strategies for the Transition Toward a Circular Economy (CE)
Sustainability 2018, 10(12), 4628; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10124628
Received: 25 September 2018 / Revised: 20 November 2018 / Accepted: 2 December 2018 / Published: 6 December 2018
Cited by 5 | PDF Full-text (770 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This study aims to identify and analyze the enabling factors and strategies for the structuring and diffusion of a circular business model. Circular model structuring involves several actors, challenges, and barriers. In this context, the present study allows discussion of the business structure [...] Read more.
This study aims to identify and analyze the enabling factors and strategies for the structuring and diffusion of a circular business model. Circular model structuring involves several actors, challenges, and barriers. In this context, the present study allows discussion of the business structure in line with the principles of circularity and can contribute by mapping the factors and strategies to be worked for business development in the circular context, providing an overview and guidance for academics, businesspeople, and professionals. Through a case study method, the research allowed identification of the factors and an in-depth understanding of the strategies and drivers of circular business models; from the empirical research, it will be possible to identify opportunities that align with what is already known, but also what may be specific to the context of emerging countries to enable the circular model. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Influence of Reduced Ownership on the Environmental Benefits of the Circular Economy
Sustainability 2018, 10(11), 4077; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10114077
Received: 4 September 2018 / Revised: 8 October 2018 / Accepted: 30 October 2018 / Published: 7 November 2018
Cited by 3 | PDF Full-text (1023 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The circular economy has become a popular concept, suggesting economic growth with fewer emissions and reduced ownership as one of its key parameters. Based on the literature, however, it appears that the concept has not been sufficiently contested empirically. This study evaluates the [...] Read more.
The circular economy has become a popular concept, suggesting economic growth with fewer emissions and reduced ownership as one of its key parameters. Based on the literature, however, it appears that the concept has not been sufficiently contested empirically. This study evaluates the carbon and material footprint implications of reduced ownership in the context of household consumption. We found that the reduced ownership does not automatically reduce the environmental impact of the production–consumption system in the context of households. Reduced ownership in the study did not have any noticeable influence on material footprint, and in the case of carbon footprint, it only had a mild positive influence in low-income households. The result is surprising, since both intuitively as well as based on the literature, moving from ownership to services should increase resource efficiency and reduce environmental impact. In the context of households, actual consumption and investment behavior seem to override the theoretical benefits of reduced ownership. In our study, the circular economy rebound and the willingness to invest in green products seems to explain quite well why the environmental impact of consumption is not reduced when households move from ownership to services. Households appear to spend the money saved from reduced ownership on carbon-intensive services; when they own the products themselves, they invest a more-than-average amount in the life cycle performance of the products. The paper’s implications for the circular economy as a concept for decoupling economic growth from environmental pressure is that one of its primary qualities, sharing and renting services instead of owning things, seems to offer only a partial solution for the dilemma. In order to fully benefit from reduced ownership, the circular economy should emphasize simultaneous change in both the production and consumption of services, as it seems that simply offering products for rent does not automatically reduce the environmental impact of the final demand. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Trade-Old-for-Remanufactured Closed-Loop Supply Chains with Carbon Tax and Government Subsidies
Sustainability 2018, 10(11), 3935; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10113935
Received: 7 October 2018 / Revised: 26 October 2018 / Accepted: 27 October 2018 / Published: 29 October 2018
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (1901 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The constantly increasing CO2 emissions are threatening the environment tremendously. Facing the pressure of environmental activists and public opinion, businesses and governments are taking action to reduce carbon emissions. Among these endeavors, carbon tax and subsidy policies proposed by governments are widely [...] Read more.
The constantly increasing CO2 emissions are threatening the environment tremendously. Facing the pressure of environmental activists and public opinion, businesses and governments are taking action to reduce carbon emissions. Among these endeavors, carbon tax and subsidy policies proposed by governments are widely adopted. Remanufacturing is believed to save manufacturing costs and reduce carbon emissions from the process of enterprise operation, and it is increasingly being accepted by enterprises. However, different consumers’ willingness to pay for remanufactured products and the durability of new products will also affect consumers’ willingness to buy remanufactured products. Therefore, considering the discrepancy between consumer willingness to pay and product durability, we established the trade-old-for-remanufactured (TOR) model for a scenario of carbon tax and government subsidies. Through the analysis of the model, we obtained the optimal pricing and production decisions of manufacturers (remanufacturers) in the case of carbon tax and government subsidies. Our results show that, when there is no carbon tax constraint, the increase in consumer willingness to pay and the adjustment in product durability can stimulate consumers to participate in TOR projects and augment enterprises’ profits. However, it can also lead to a carbon rebound that increases corporate carbon emissions. When there is a carbon tax constraint, the introduction of carbon tax contributes to a reduction in carbon emissions, while enterprises tend to lose profits. In order to achieve a “win-win” between corporate profits and carbon emissions, we considered government subsidy policies. Our numerical examples illustrate that appropriate carbon tax and government subsidies can curb carbon emissions and also increase profits for enterprises. Full article
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