To many businesses fail to track their customers across the consumer lifecycle. New emissions legislation might change that and inspire future businesses to work collaboratively with consumers. Even to a mutually beneficial end.
Environmental issues could not be more serious. Climate change is now beyond science papers to examples in everyday lives. People in Australia are currently experiencing temperatures of more than 46c (114f). The past 4 years has seen earth at its hottest. This heating trend will not stop unless we severely reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
To do this, initiatives are underway to work with businesses on emissions improvement. One such initiative is the Greenhouse Gas Protocol. A partnership between the World Resources Institute and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. The protocol gives sector guidance to businesses through reporting standards, calculation tools and training. Its 3 scopes consider emissions of different parts of any business.
Countries are asking their businesses to comply to the Greenhouse Gas Protocol. In the UK for example, businesses already report on Scope 1 & 2 emissions. Scope 3 is imminent. It is also the trickiest to measure due to its remote location from the business. Two key considerations to Scope 3 are…
These are difficult to assess or influence from a distance. Gaining understanding of the consumers usage of a product requires getting close. Many businesses overlook the need to be engaged with the consumer throughout the product lifecycle. Even more so with consumer endings. This forfeits the opportunity to influence sustainable behaviour. And removes the ability to capture materials from end-of-life products. Both significant if you are serious about Scope 3 emissions.
Lets consider the producer - consumer relationship and its influence within the world of cars, toys and electronics.
Cars have some of the longest, and most loyal relationships between producer and consumer. Kept alive through things like warranties, and service agreements. The average life expectancy of a car is around 8 years or 150,000 miles. Although some may go to 15 years or 300,000 miles. The warranty, one of the strongest producer - consumer bonds, barely stretches across half that lifespan. Daniel Huston, from Compare The Market’s Motor Team, says “Typically, new cars will come with a warranty of three years or 60,000 miles. Some manufacturers offer longer. Hyundai, for example, offers a five-year, unlimited mileage warranty, whereas Kia’s is for seven years or 100,000 miles.”
The majority of car producers don’t get near the end of life with the producer - consumer relationship intact. Kia’s 7 year warranty being the closest. Who, by the way, achieved incredible growth over the last decade, which they put down to the 7 year warranty. I am a big fan of Kia’s lifetime relationship with consumers and its active off-boarding - read more here.
Toy manufactures in contrast will rarely know any of their customers. High end companies like Build-A-Bear, aim to have a closer relationship. Encouraging customers to join the club and provide email address for extra access.
Low end toys are a very different beast though. The consumer lifecycle with these products can be quick. The sort of toys given away for free on the cover of a magazine can be a flippant relationships over in an instant. So influence with the consumer is absent around usage and end of life.
Many toys also have a material complexity that makes recycling difficult. Brent Bell, vice president of Waste Management, a US recycling company, told the Huffington Post “There are very few toys that are good candidates for recycling. Plastic toys pose a unique challenge because they’re typically composed of other materials too, such as metals. The recyclable components can’t be separated out, and become prohibitive for recycling centres”.
For most toy producers being present at end of life is financially impossible. High end toys may have more success in this as part of building brand loyalty. The low end toys then become a space burden on the consumers, who without clear guidance will send it to landfill - the worst end-of-life.
Electronic devices have a varying length of life. Some items like washing machines, have an average life expectancy of 11 years. Which might be a little longer for high end machines. Warranties can be long for these - Miele, for example offers a 10 year parts and labour warranty.
While other devices like mobile phones, have a shorter lifespan. According to itsworthmore.com, iPhones should last a minimum of 3 years. Mass market Android might last 2 years or even less from the cheapest manufactures.
The connected nature of electronic devices presents an opportunity for the producer - consumer relationship. Guidance around efficient usage would be useful, not to mention aiding the collection of Scope 3 emission data. This relationship could extend to the end of life with off-boarding guidance for the consumer (some examples here for iPhone).
Beyond measure, toward the end
Passive measuring is at best informative. It will go some way to improving business activity, but it will fail to achieve the deep behaviour shift we need to challenge climate change.
Society fails to deal with climate change when it avoids an emotional consumer. Experiences at the beginning of the customer lifecycle are rich and full of meaning. In contrast the end is barren and demands no engagement. This needs to change.
The producer - consumer relationship needs to aspire to more. It needs bonding throughout an emotional consumer lifecycle. That achieves change and concludes the product end-of-life with producer - consumer collaboration. Scope 3 is a start for businesses to consider emotional consumer endings.