Nicolas Buttin University of the Arts London London College of Communication Master of Design Management September 2010


How can design management shape sustainability at local levels through an online platform for exchange, hire and purchase of products and services?


On the issue of sustainability, designers have been accused of being part of the problem. Building on a design concept, the main research question is: how can design management shape sustainability at local levels through an online platform for exchange, hire and purchase of products and services? The purpose of this study is to outline recommendations for the development of such a product-service system (PSS).

In order to answer the research question three areas of investigations have been established and explored through the analysis of primary and secondary data: Definitions of design and design management Understandings and solutions to sustainability Perceptions, habits and involvement around sustainability at local levels

The literature review covers the first two areas of investigation. It reviews the recent expansion of design and its management to systems and services, notably through design thinking. It also reviews the often-confronting spheres of sustainability (ecological, social, economic). Our field research addresses the neglected fourth sphere of this ‘system’: personal issues and motivations. Two separate surveys in London and Paris where set up – as well as a blog – in order to investigate this area but also the potential of the online PSS with end-users.

Recommendations for this study conclude on building such a PSS concept using design thinking to encapsulate ecological, social, economic and personal issues regarding sustainability. An open, collaborative and generalist platform building on previous PSS successes and initiatives is likely to grasp interest and inspiration from users as shown in our field research. Finally, continuing investigating the question on a global scale would be needed to compare other types of areas and countries.

Key words: Design, design management, design thinking, sustainability, product-service system, PSS, online, local, exchange, share, products, services


0. Foreword 1. Introduction 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 A problem of design Design concept Aim of the research Research question Research objectives Research methods


2. Literature Review 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 What is design? What is design management? Sustainability understandings and solutions Product-Service Systems: a solution? Opportunities for design management Gaps in the literature

3. Analysis of Primary Research Findings 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 Understanding(s) of sustainability Giving habits and disposal Getting habits and acquiring Involvement and concerns Synthesis and key findings

4. Discussion 4.1 4.2 Demand for building localized goods and services exchange Potential of design management for building local PSS shaping sustainability

5. Recommendations

6. Conclusions and further research

7. References

8. Suggested readings 9. Appendices


List of Figures
Fig 1: Design concept Fig 2: Research areas Fig 3: Research matrix Fig 4: Blog screenshot Fig 5: Research methodology Fig 6: Interdisciplinary design delta by Tom Inns (2008) Fig 7: A world of objects, inspired by the cover of Objectified (Hustwit, 2009) Fig 8: Design functions by Kathryn Best (2006) Fig 9: Design layers by Kathryn Best (2006) Fig 10: Design thinking and design management areas Fig 11: Sustainability spheres, inspired from Bhamra & Lofthouse, 2007 Fig 12: The sustainability puzzle, environment issues Fig 13: The sustainability puzzle, economic issues Fig 14: The sustainability puzzle, social issues Fig 15: Materials economy, inspired by Story of Stuff (Leonard, 2008) Fig 16: UK results for giving goods (survey) Fig 17: French results for giving goods (survey) Fig 18: UK results for giving services (survey) Fig 19: French results for giving services (survey) Fig 20: UK results for getting goods (survey) Fig 21: French results for getting goods (survey) Fig 22: UK results for getting services (survey) Fig 23: French results for getting services (survey) Fig 24: UK results for sources of involvement (survey) Fig 25: French results for sources of involvement (survey) Fig 26: The sustainability puzzle, personal issues Fig 27: Design thinking shaping sustainability issues


CSR: Corporate Social Responsibility EU: European Union PSS: Product-Service System SCORE!: Sustainable Consumption Research Network SusProNet: Sustainable Product Development Network UK: United Kingdom UN: United Nations UNEP: United Nations Environmental Program


0. Forewords
This research is both the beginning and the end of a journey. It is the beginning of a design adventure to create an online platform. A platform that will enable people to exchange, hire and purchase products and services with their neighbours. It is also the end of an academic cycle. From digital communications to environmental concerns and design management along the way, my studies greatly nourished my reflection around this project.

The idea for this project emerged around 5 years ago while studying communications in France. At the time, I focused my first research thesis on a film trilogy1 that narrates the relationship between our natural habitat and human technology, arguing the fact that we now live in a ‘technological milieu’. The influence of design in this ongoing process led me to study the launch of the iPhone on the Internet: users’ expectations, green issues and branding. It was at this moment that the challenges of sustainable design started to resonate in my mind.

I then worked as a project manager for a design agency in 2008, discovering design techniques, design thinking and became aware of design management and its potential. I soon witnessed paradoxes between good design claims and

environmentally damaging design practices. Therefore, I decided to further study issues around design management and sustainability. During my design management course in 2009, I came up with a social innovation idea embracing my previous professional knowledge and so far academic interests. I decided to test this idea’s relevance, potential and perception in this research.


Koyaanisqatsi, Powaqqatsi and Naqoyqatsi (1983, 1988 & 2002 by Godfrey Reggio)


1. Introduction

“I am always amazed to see just how many there are that I don’t need” (Socrates)

1.1 A problem of design

What is design? This simple question has many responses. Indeed design is not unique, it has many expressions, for instance: chairs, lamps, kettles, iPods… Our world is filled with products or design objects. Some argue that everything that we touch or see was once designed: from graphics to products, brands to advertising. Others even see design as a complete philosophy, a way of thinking, as far as it remains faithful to the design motto: problem-solving.

As a matter of fact, there is no agreed definition of what design actually is. It is a vast and complex field constantly evolving, changing and transforming itself. From designing mere products, design is moving to shaping whole systems. From designing tangible solutions such as physical objects or images, design is moving to the area of intangibles such as services, processes and networks. To say the least, design has become holistic. Thinking design in those terms means not just designing things but thinking the entire value chain around those things. In other words, it means designing systems. If we look at product design for instance, the shift means rethinking traditional patterns of sourcing, production, distribution, consumption and disposal in a brand new way.

One of the reasons of this evolution of design from products to systems is the fact that the world is getting more complex. And new challenges have appeared in the mirror: climate, energy, transport, and resources… In fact, a preoccupying dilemma is rising: how to deal with growth on a finite planet? This vast environmental, political and


economical question has also become a question of design. Some argue that the sustainability challenge has become a design issue:
“Eighty percent of a product, service or system’s environmental impact is determined at the design stage. If it is true that we are using the Earth’s resources faster than we replace them, then design can help reverse this trend by changing the processes behind products, as well as the resources used to make them and use them. This is how a commitment to sustainability drives innovation. (Thackara, 2005)

Although design is not entirely responsible for the current situation of pollution, over consumption and global warming, it “has played a significant role in creating these problems through specification of materials, manufacturing processes and the design of products that are not always efficient, recyclable, reusable, or repairable” (Griffith, 2008). Moreover, design has been accused of reinforcing problems by advocating “planned and perceived obsolescence”. Planned obsolescence which means “designing and producing products in order for them to be used up within a specific time period”, while perceived obsolescence refers to “desirability” which means that although a product “may continue to be functional, it is no longer perceived to be stylish or appropriate, so it is rendered obsolete by perception” (Leonard, 2008).

How to solve this vast environmental, political and economical problem? Surely, there isn’t one-size-fits-all solution to this complex issue and we don’t pretend to come up with a perfect solution. However, the force of design is to propose solutions, inspire new ideas and provide with new thinking. Some say that it is only this way that design will find its way out of this endemic problem: “Design thinking, in combination with Internetenabled networks and wireless communications, can reshape whole production processes, even the entire logic and structure of an industry” (Thackara, 2005).

Therefore inspired by these lines, we proposed a design concept to be tested and analysed in regard with sustainability issues, design management and end-users perceptions.


1.2 Design concept

The design concept is an exchange channel via Internet. The idea is simple: people give either goods or services they want to share with their local community. Goods or services can be given for free, swapped, lent, leased or sold by people of the community. In return, other people can get for free, swap, borrow, rent or buy these goods or services. For example, instead of owning a drill, people can rent it to another member of the community. It is a win-win-win equation. The holder receive money from the rent, the lessee spend less money than buying a brand new drill, and the environment is not impacted by supporting external cost of manufacturing or transport.

Although people start communicating online, the relationship continues in the real world, in the neighbourhood. Hence, this platform is also a gateway to meet new people, create friendships and collaboration with your neighbours. By bringing services as well, people can exchange a cooking lesson with an extra hand to go shopping for instance. Thus, people can share their time not just goods, which doesn’t necessarily involve a money transaction.

It presents an opportunity for people to access goods and services they need, interact with their local community, and in the process reduce our carbon footprint.

(Fig 1: Design concept)


1.3 Aim of the research

This study aims to explore the potential of the design concept by analysing literature; end-users’ understanding of sustainability, giving and getting habits so far, and finally possible motivations toward the concept.

Why end-users? Real people, we believe, are the most important public to study while dealing with design ideas. We designed this study in order to be both a data collection instrument and an idea exchange platform. Both a survey and a blog were put in place to enable people to fill-in questions and share their thoughts online.

Why sustainability? Sustainability is at the core of the design problem. Though we don’t pretend solving every sustainability issues with our concept, we tried to identify the most significant and relevant aspects of this complex issue.

And design management? Design management is at the core of this research, however it is a difficult notion to investigate with end-users. We have preferred to talk about consumption and disposal patterns for our field research for example. Design management, design thinking and other difficult notions such as PSS have been studied in the literature review.

(Fig 2: Research areas)


1.4 Research question

Sustainability is a complex phenomenon involving environmental, social and economic aspects that seldom connect to each other (Bhamra & Lofthouse, 2007). Although design productions and practices are often seen as threats to sustainability rather than remedies, design management through its holistic approach of “design thinking” and “service design” might play a catalyst role in connecting this complexity: business, people and the planet.

This study poses the main research question:

How can design management shape sustainability at local levels through an online platform for exchange, hire and purchase of products and services?


1.5 Research objectives

In order to answer the research question the following objectives have been developed and will be addressed in the corresponding chapters: Discussion Survey and blog Recommendations

Literature review


1. Review current knowledge related to the role of sustainability in the use of products and services by local communities through a design thinking perspective. This will be covered in the literature review chapter

2. Use social online networking tools to investigate trans-national perspectives among local communities related to a dedicated online service that would facilitate the exchange, hire and purchase of sustainable products and services. This will be investigated through a field research and covered in the corresponding chapter.

3. Discuss the implications of this study to the provision of online services related to sustainable product use by local communities. This point will be covered in a discussion chapter confronting the literature and field research findings.

4. Outline recommendations for future development of online sustainable productservice system, practices, policies and further academic research. These

recommendations will appear in a dedicated chapter at the end of this paper, and summarized in the conclusions.


1.6 Research Methods

This part illustrates the approach and the methodology followed in the study and explains the reasons behind each choices. It also illustrates the process of data collection and analysis and considers viability and reliability of the study. It concludes reflecting on the limitations of this research.

Approach This research project was developed within the phenomenological research method, which is concerned with capturing the lived experience of study participants, “toward the ways in which ordinary members of society attend to their everyday lives” (Gubrium & Holstein, 2000, pp. 488-489). The focus of phenomenological research is people’s experience in regard to a phenomenon and how they interpret their experience. Each individual has his or her own reality towards the phenomenon, there is not a single reality.

In order to explore the main research question, a necessary literature review has been carried out. It starts with an outline of definitions of ‘design management’ and ‘sustainability’, and is then focused on ‘product-service systems’ related to design management and sustainability. This part particularly helped to identify key issues, gaps of knowledge and to design further research questions to investigate.

Methods Mixed method was used to explore both quantitative and qualitative aspects of the problem, a double method that is explicitly accepted by the phenomenological approach, which adopts a pluralistic action. “Mixed methods researchers need to establish a purpose to their mixing, a rational for the reasons why quantitative and qualitative methods need to be mixed in the first place” (Creswell, 2008). The mixed method approach seemed to be the best suited for the study in the optic that qualitative and quantitative data could be used side by side to reinforce and/or confirm each other (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2007).


Our approach includes both inductive and deductive elements. The deductive element of this study is the hypothesis formulated as: design management, through its holistic approach, could shape sustainable product-service systems. This hypothesis led to the research question focused on how design management can shape sustainable community practices locally through online exchanging tools.

The research process followed the inductive approach, where the first step was the collection of data. This formed the base for further analysis and synthesis, and resulted in a series of recommendations and conclusions, presented at the end of this paper.

Data collection This research is based both on secondary and primary data. A bottom-up approach has been preferred to analyse the data collected. In a bottom-up approach, key notions are first specified and defined in great details in order to explain the terms that we use and how we use them. These diverse elements belonging to different spheres of expertise are then linked together to form a larger coherent system. This bottom-up approach has one weakness, which is to require a lot of intuition to articulate and bring together the data (Trochim, 2006). But as this system is built from pre-existing domain of expertises, this approach is more suitable because we are at the intersection of different domain where little has been done.

Six types of sources have been looked at, grouped into primary and secondary sources. Primary sources: o o Surveys Blog

Secondary sources: o o o o Books Journals / Articles Conferences / Exhibitions Internet


Literature review First an enquiry about what had already been written on design management, sustainability and initiatives involving end-users was research. It only then emerged that product-service system (PSS) literature was especially interesting regarding these three topics. The research question was then elaborated accordingly in order to look at these subjects in a new way. Research collection was then oriented to specific articles specialized in PSS, either looking at the sustainability or design management dimensions. This literature review helped us to build the survey questions and our angle of approach.

Surveys Gathering data about sustainability and local exchange practices was based on multiple online surveys in order to compare them. Survey research provides a quantitative description of trends, attitudes or opinions of a population from a sample with the intent of generalising it to a population (Babbie, 1990). A statistical analyse of the results of the survey is a well admitted scientific method in social science. Some even argue that only by using quantitative methods can the social sciences become truly scientific. However, a qualitative angle was adopted with some open-ended questions and the possibility to comment and feedback on every single question. Originally, we targeted several regions in order to compare ‘urban’ and ‘rural’ areas, as well as developed and developing countries contexts ( Therefore the survey was translated from English into 13 other languages: French, German, Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, Greek, Danish, Slovak, Polish, Finnish, Thai and Chinese.

Developed/Transition countries

Developing countries

Urban countries (by people)

UK, France, Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands, Italy, Spain

Brazil, Argentina, Chile

Rural countries (by people)

Finland, Slovakia, Poland, Greece, Portugal

Thailand, China, India, (Fig 3 : Research matrix)


Unfortunately, too many replies were too geographically different in order to investigate local level of perceptions. In the end, we decided to study only English and French surveys results, which respectably focus on Paris and London areas. Both surveys reach 100 replies. At this point collection was stopped and analysis began. Other transnational results were kept for possible further research but weren’t analysed in this paper. A copy of all the different survey designs is provided in the Appendices. It was mentioned to respondents that results would remain anonymous in order to protect their personal data, and also don’t refrain or bias their answers. As mentioned before, design management was not directly mentioned in the survey since it addresses end-users. Our goal was to use simple ideas that one can easily reflect on. Design management would have been too difficult to investigate directly with endusers. We would have pumped to problems of language and definition.

Blog A blog was started to collect feedback from people interested in the design concept. One can visit it at:

(Fig 4: Blog screenshot)


People from all around the world joined the blog without necessarily undertaking the survey. However, some joined the conversation, adding ideas and shared their toughts with other people. The blog was a place to explain the concept more deeply, building a future network and create emulation around the concept on social networking platforms. Behind the idea of the blog lies the spirit of co-designing with users. Especially at the early stage of designing, collecting needs, perceptions and expectations are relevant. It can enable to prototype solutions and use feedback to improve final outcomes and research findings.

Data analysis The analysis of the data started after their entire collection. The data from surveys has been analysed when all the information was gathered. We focus on quantitative data, which were combined into tables; and also qualitative data resulting of open-ended questions in the survey. These answers were summarized into key themes that were later analysed and interpreted. One should note that data from the blog was collected and looked at in the perspective of a future development of the concept. Consequently, these data are still accessible and constitute a live experiment. Therefore analysis for this part is not specific but nourished analysis from the surveys.

Reliability and validity of the study This research method and its approach have been done with the reliability and the validity of the study in mind. The quantitative and qualitative tools have been selected for their complementary strengths and weaknesses and to compensate each other. We preferred to analyse only what we considered valid data instead of looking at surveys with poor replies. Consequently, surveys matching poor results or too geographically different weren’t considered in this thesis findings. However, the study and its results can be partially replicated through other similar surveys, perhaps in the future for further research. Its external reliability is therefore proven (Bryman, 2004). This is usually a criterion that is very difficult to meet with qualitative research but this obstacle has been avoided thanks to the quantitative aspect of the survey.


Limitations First, a full triangulation of data for a study concerned with design management and its sustainable potential for PSS would have been possible through investigating the following groups of actors: - end-users/consumers - experts in design management - businesses and institutions

However, we preferred to focus on the first group of actors, as it is often less studied in design management studies. Moreover, indirect data for the other groups of stakeholders could be informed partially by looking at the literature.

Most of the limitations of this study are rooted in the qualitative and quantitative methods that have been used. Even if ambiguity and contradictions are more tolerated, there are some problems connected with qualitative methods, especially those related to the facts that the analysis is subjective, interpretative and difficultly replicable (Creswell, 2008; Silvermann, 2003).

Its main limitations are the external validity of the study and the representativeness of the people interrogated. On the one hand, it can always be argued that the study is only relatively representative and not completely replicable. On the other hand, the data and the analysis are grounded and rich in details.

Visual representation of methodology To conclude, a visual summary of our methodology is provided on the next page. It starts with the process of reviewing literature and designing our research question through looking at sustainability, design management and end-users experiments with PSS in the literature. It then unfolds to research design: designing surveys and a blog; communication; and data collection and analysis. It finishes with writing through synthesis and recommendations.


(Fig 5: Research methodology)


2. Literature Review

“Man’s proper study is that of his relation to his environment… this is the business of his whole life” (Jean-Jacques Rousseau)

This research looks at broad and not always clear definitions of both design management and sustainability. There are still ongoing and unresolved debates and disputes around what design management actually is, who design managers are, where the discipline really belongs to: design, business or management. In parallel, sustainability is also facing confusion in its acceptations partly due to the fact that it embraces economic, environmental and social concerns, which are often difficult to confront. Although some of these issues have been raised in this review, it was not our intention to resolve all the problems, but rather outline design management opportunities around certain sustainability issues.

Therefore this literature review focuses on background aspects of how design management can shape sustainability at local levels through an online platform for exchange, hire and purchase of products and services.

It unfolds following five key aspects regarding the topic, outlining: - definitions of design - definitions of design management - definitions of sustainability - product-service systems as a solution to sustainability - opportunities for design management - knowledge gaps in the literature


2.1 What is Design?

Before looking at design management, it is good to look at what design actually is and how it is depicted today in the literature. As we previously said, the word “design” – once applying to the field of product manufacturing – has become an umbrella word embracing almost everything. From graphic and product design, to architecture and environmental design, but also information design, corporate identity or branding, and not forgetting design management, service design or design thinking. Design is everywhere and in every mouth. This relatively recent expansion is confusing. As a matter of fact, the concept of design is notoriously hard to define (Design Council 1995, p.1) given its complex nature. As far as design management is concerned, an interesting definition was given by Cooper & Press in their Design Agenda (1995, p. 7):
“Design is a broad field covering many different disciplines. It can be viewed as a discrete activity, a total process or in terms of its tangible outcome. Design can be viewed as a management function, a cultural phenomenon and as an industry of its own right. It is a means of adding value and a vehicle for social or political change. Design is defined differently in different countries with our understanding of it changing over time.”

As mentioned previously, attention is now increasingly focusing on the design process rather than pure artefacts. This shift creates a very powerful link with design management, which is about the process and implementation of product, service or solution. “Design thinking” and “service design” are two key concepts, which are gaining attention, and synthesize the current expansion and ramifications of design. For instance, “service design” is focused on the improvement of services rather than products and involves research and methods involving people. It most often goes into co-designing future services directly with final users or customers. Design thinking is even broader and will be explained in the following pages.

To better understand what design embraces today, a graphic summary has been provided by Tom Inns (2008) in his Interdisciplinary Design Delta concept. It traces back the evolution, ramifications and complexity of design from the early days to the present.


(Fig 6: Interdisciplinary design delta by Tom Inns, 2008)

Starting with the Industrial Revolution, design slowly expands from products to intangibles: communication, branding, leadership, management and thinking. More recently, design as been expanding to deal with services, social, globalisation issues. This diversity of design expressions is getting more complex while dealing with new challenges, especially with sustainability, which we will later detail.

As a matter of fact, the biggest challenge according to Alice Rawsthorn regarding design, its process, management and implementation, might not even be the creative economy or globalization but something even more vital to the whole economy: that is sustainability.
“Arguably, the most biggest challenge facing every single designer right now is sustainability. It’s no longer possible for designers to ignore the implication of continuing to produce more and more new stuff that sometimes we need and sometimes we don’t need. Designers spend most of their time designing products


and services for the 10% of world population that already owned too much, when 90% don’t have even basic products and services to live a subsistent life. Although most designers believe emotionally and intellectually in sustainability but they, at the manufactures they work for, are finding it very, very, difficult to come to turns with. Because sustainability isn’t just a pretty, glamorous process of using recycled materials that may or may not be in the colour green. It’s about redesigning every single aspect: from sourcing materials, to designing, to production, to shipping and then eventually designing in way that those products can be disposed of more responsibly. That’s a mammoth task, so it’s no wonder that designers and manufacturers are finding it so difficult” (Alice Rawsthorn in Objectified, 2009).

(Fig 7: A world of objects, inspired by the cover of Objectified, directed by Gary Hustwit)


2.2 What is Design Management?

This world of objects, this world of design is getting more and more difficult to articulate for the designers themselves, especially due to the fact that design isn’t just about products anymore. The need to manage and apprehend complexity, to find opportunities for creativity is thriving. It is what design management is all about.

Design management is a relatively young discipline, compared for instance to business, management or even design. It first began in the 1940s within the frame of communication, management and social studies, but truly expanded in the 1980s, being often described as the ‘design decade’ (see e.g. Cooper & Press 1995; Oakley 1990). Like design, design management sits across many different industries and disciplines, and as a discipline itself remains substantially unresolved. There is a lot of confusion around the term ‘design management’. “There is no single, universally agreed definition of the term ‘design management’, just as there is no single agreed definition of ‘design’ or in fact of ‘business’ ”(Best 2006, p.12). This confusion in the definition of design management is both frustrating and exciting. In essence, design management is multidisciplinary, in between design and management of course, but also in between their expressions: from branding to marketing, projects to strategy. It focuses on creativity and innovation as drivers of business and applies to designers, managers and leaders.

(Fig 8: Design functions by Kathryn Best, 2006)


In fact, design management embraces every level of the organizational model: operational, tactical and strategic. More than a simple management tool or function, design management is a holistic approach to design and management. Consequently, it doesn’t necessarily embody in a single or proper function. As a matter of fact, the term ‘design manager’ is rarely used as such in organizations. Some would prefer, ‘innovation manager’, ‘change manager’ or ‘strategic manager’ for instance.

(Fig 9: Design layers by Kathryn Best, 2006)

The discipline is about managing complexity and on top of that change and transformation. This multidisciplinary and constantly evolving field, makes design management a strategic asset both at the internal and organizational side; and at the external and customer side. At the strategic level design management goes beyond business-as-usual by trying to identify and set up extra-ordinary solutions, invent new business models and even challenge market rules or status quo. An example would be the case of the iPhone that completely reinvented the mobile phone industry, through managing and articulating a design system: terminal, online store and mythological story around a product (Buttin, 2008).

In this expansion, “design thinking” has risen. This almost ideological term pretends to


embrace all of design, making it a way of thinking, “from emotional to analytical thinking” and “right brain to left brain” (Martin, 2009; Lockwood, 2009). While design management is about bringing design into a wider context: political, economical, social, technological, environmental, legal; design thinking tries to bridge the gap between designers and managers, with people dealing with touch points and people dealing with strategy, making design a truly holistic and systemic field. Interestingly for this research “design thinking balances the perspectives of users, technology, and business, it is by its nature integrative (…); it imbues a full spectrum of design ideas with a human-centred and more sustainable design ethos” (Brown, 2009).

(Fig 10: Design thinking and design management areas)


2.3 Sustainability understandings and solutions

2.3.1 What is sustainability? In regard with design, sustainability is another umbrella word embracing vast and often confronting issues: social, economical and environmental. These interrelated domains are often referred to as the three pillars or “triple bottom line of sustainability” (Elkington, 1997). Depending on stakeholders, the emphasis is often biased to one particular aspect of the problem, which is why we have chosen to treat these aspects separately. Although we will look at sustainability from the prism of design, it is often useful to contextualize and explain side effects or external aspects.

(Fig 11: Sustainability spheres, inspired from Bhamra & Lofthouse, 2007)


2.3.2 The environment

As early as the 1900’s, the British Arts and Crafts Movement identified the industrial production as the “main source of disequilibrium in the environmental balance (Leff, 1995). However, the notion of ‘sustainability’ has only been taken into consideration from the 1960s through architecture and product design focusing essentially on environmental and sourcing aspects. Many cite the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1962 and Victor Papanek’s Design for the Real World in 1971 as the foundations of the green movement, which led to “green design” and “ecodesign” (Richardson, Irwin, & Sherwin, 2005). Similar names in the literature refers to the same idea: “environmental design”, “environmentally sustainable design”, “environmentallyconscious design” and “design for the environment”, etc… The green movement also referred to as the ecological movement drew attention to environmental damages caused by mankind. It really emerged as a public concern during the 1970’s and the oil crisis with many designers trying to reduce the use of plastic and other oil-related materials. In 1987, the Bruntland Report, Our Common Future launched the second wave of environmental concern. And by the late 1980’s, greater public awareness of sustainable issues was reached with the publication of the best seller the Green Consumer Guide (Elkington & Hailes, 1988). Since then, the importance of the sustainability issue has raised at the political level with the multiplication of “green parties” in Europe, America and elsewhere in the world.

Designers broadly began to take these messages into their professional practices when “design for the environment” became part of the big corporate agenda in the 1990s (Mackenzie 1997; Burrall 1991). In 1991, The Design Principles of Environmental Stewardship were established through the collaboration of several major design organisations, of which the Design Management Institute. In 1992, the UN Agenda 21 sealed a global blueprint on sustainability. Arguably, the reason why designers are the best response to sustainability is because of the complexity of the questions that have to be solved as it “necessitate a holistic approach” (Berns, Townend, et al., 2009). It is interesting there to note the needs of new ‘capabilities’ in order to implement sustainable processes listed as by Berns and Townend:


“Companies will need to develop new capabilities and characteristics, including: the ability to operate on a system wide basis and collaborate across conventional internal and external boundaries; a culture that rewards and encourages long-term thinking; capabilities in the areas of activity measurement, process redesign and financial modelling and reporting; and skills in engaging and communicating with external stakeholders” (2009, p. 10).

Designers can help with most of those aspects, especially when it comes to thinking out of the box, collaborate with different professions, rethink processes and measure the impact of their work and moreover, interact with different stakeholder outside the organization. However, for more analytical thinking such as finance, business models or reporting, they can rely on managerial entities such as design managers, leaders or other functions in the organization to articulate their solutions.

Other specialized designers’ community were born recently, especially the Designer’s Accord formed in 2007, often referred to as “the Kyoto Treaty of design”. Its aim is to call to arms the creative community around environmental stewardship. Comparatively, on the economical and political side, the Kyoto Protocol (1997) was never ratified by the United States and the relative failure of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen (2009) still testifies of the difficulty to legislate and find international agreements on environmental issues.

As a summary on this topic, a graphic representation of current environmental issues facing design and its management is given as followed. It only represents one piece of what we will refer to as the ‘sustainability puzzle’, which will be develop along this study.














Environment issues
Recycle Repairability

(Fig 12: The sustainability puzzle, environment issues)


2.3.3 The economy

Whereas the question of the environment is generally agreed within the design community, when it comes to the economic sphere, a lot a divergent voices push in. First, sustainability is often referred to as “sustainable development” for the economic sphere. The term in itself reflects the will to push development (and therefore economic growth), while at the same time considering its own economic sustainability. Commonly, most economists (and designers) now agree on the need to consider sustainability. However there are still significant differences. For example, some economical aspects of sustainability are beginning to be seen as very interesting and strategic tools to save money and catching up with a disturbed economy and market place. Long regarded as a branch of corporate social responsibility (CSR) to patch industrial side effects, sustainability is moving from a reactive to a proactive economic strategy.

Also, in the recent economic turmoil the debate has become very ideological. From Marxist to neo-liberal doctrines, the sustainability issue is far from been resolved. While some are calling to “change our mode of thinking” – namely capitalism – like David Harvey (2010), others are proposing softer solutions like “natural capitalism” which advocates to consider “the value of the earth’s ecosystem services” (Hawken, 2007). According to the latter, four major shifts are necessary: “increasing the productivity of natural resources”, “closed-loop production systems that yield no waste or toxicity”, “a change of business model – from selling products to delivering services”, “reinvesting in natural capital to restore, sustain, and expand the planet’s ecosystem” (Hawken, 2007). Another radical solution is “degrowth”, theorized by Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen in the 1970’s is gaining much interest these days within the context of the world recession. Its principle: “the end of growth being ineluctable, the better is to precede it if we want to live it softly” (Georgescu-Roegen, 1971). Behind this theory is the critic of sustainable development that is claimed to be a contradiction because an infinite growth isn’t possible therefore it can’t be sustainable.

A study by the MIT (Berns, Townend, & alt., 2009) proved that more than 92 percent of the professionals said that their company was addressing sustainability in some way,


and only 25 percent of them said that the economic downturn has lead to a decrease it their commitment to sustainability. Some even argue that there was an increase. In this respect, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), talk about the current crisis as an “opportunity” that “should not be wasted” (2008). Others see sustainability as a timeless business strategy:

“In a stable economy, sustainability is the competitive advantage strategy. In a down economy, sustainability is the turnaround strategy. In a collapsed economy, sustainability is a survival strategy” (Hunter Lovins, 2009).

Moreover, some point out that “consumers are now taking into account a company’s environmental record when making purchasing decisions” (Lash & Wellington, 2007). New risks (and opportunities) are emerging and “companies that manage and mitigate their exposure to risks associated with climate change while seeking new opportunities for profit will generate a competitive advantage over rivals in a carbon-constrained future” (Lash & Wellington, 2007).

Others go even beyond by praising sustainability as the key driver of innovation: “sustainability can unearth a mother lode of organizational and technological innovations that yield both top-line and bottom-line returns” (Nidumolu, Prahalad & Rangaswami, 2009). They put forward that sustainability is the next competitive advantage, especially within the context of the global economical crisis: “by equating sustainability with innovation today, enterprises can lay the groundwork that will put them in the lead when the recession ends” (Nidumolu, Prahalad & Rangaswami, 2009). They conclude with a concise formula: “sustainability = innovation” (Nidumolu, Prahalad & Rangaswami, 2009).

Some designers prone shifting to an economy of services, to “dematerialise” the economy and lower the ecological impact of the production of new goods via a reconfiguration of our industrial system toward a “product-service systems” (Richardson, Irwin, & Sherwin, 2005, p. 25). Another interesting path is “the transition to a light and sustainable economy [which] means moving from an economy of transactions - selling


and buying things - to an economy in which the quality of services, not the acquisition of goods, becomes our measure of well-being”(Thackara, 2005). In this matter, some even challenge the idea of profit by defining ‘happiness’ as the metric, not money. The “Growth National Happiness” of Bhutan is a famous example of this new eco-political doctrine.

All of these economical doctrines and strategies are possible futures to envisage. And design management, as a strategic asset, must consider all of them in order to be successful. The economic side is to be considered to establish not only viable but sustainable business models, or even “wish-able” business models for the planet, the society and people. Some point out that in the age of transparency, we are shifting to a “customer capitalism” economy where users, people and clients will gain new power through the Internet for example (Martin, 2010). Therefore, it is more than about time to drive strategy and innovation through users than ever before. Debates about “openinnovation”, its feasibility, its impacts and potentials are more than vivid today (Chesbrough, 2003; Chesbrough, Vanhaverbeke & West, 2006)

As previously explained, the puzzle of sustainability would be incomplete without its economical side. Here is a graphic summary of business issues concerned with sustainability. One will notice that it embraces pretty much all of business, and therefore has become impossible to circumvent.




Cost Effectiveness




Market Gain






Business model




Economic issues

(Fig 13: The sustainability puzzle, economic issues)


2.3.4 The society “Whereas environmental and economic concerns are generally well defined and understood, the social sphere of sustainability is generally less so” (Colantonio, 2007). Social sustainability is generally concerned with human rights, labour rights and corporate governance. In its broadest terms it can encompass; personal responsibility, quality of life, health, well-being and happiness, democratic participation and cooperative behaviour (Polese & Stren, 2000; Baines & Morgan, 2004; Sinner et al., 2004; Colantonio, 2007). Social issues are usually the ones that come last, probably because effects and impacts are the most difficult to measure for organizations. However, the social impact of economical activity is more transparent today that is was even 10 years ago. Fair-trade labels are growing and are getting more visibility by consumers, working conditions such as wages, illness and child work are getting more attention in the media. Also side effects of globalization and off shoring of production in Third World countries are coming to the debate. More generally, side effects of the design activity are being stressed in professional practices and by researchers, though usually still in regard with environmental concerns.

In this matter the rising of service design with its focus on people is seen as a fantastic and insightful tool to develop social sustainability concerns and practices through a design approach. “Service design is about arranging things so that people who need things done are connected to other people and equipment that get things done – on an as- and when-needed basis”(Thackara, 2005). Through co-designing with users and looking at social issues such as crime, health and the human factor in general, knowledge is growing. And solutions to these specific problems are now on their way. Indeed, if much of the focus so far has been on the role of design in creating more sustainable products, “a potentially more powerful and transformational role for design is at the other end of the spectrum – in influencing consumption choices and lifestyle aspirations” (Richardson, Irwin, & Sherwin, 2005, p.23).

The impact of design on social issues is forming other bricks of the sustainability puzzle. Literature is still vague on those issues such as the vast question of poverty.


Third Age


Social issues







Emerging economies




(Fig 14: The sustainability puzzle, social issues)


2.3.5 Approaches, theories and tools On top of environmental, economical and social aspects of sustainability regarding design lie approaches, theories and tools. Although, it wasn’t our goal to explore and details every one of them, it is useful to gain knowledge on a few specific elements in regard with our research question in order to identify useful solutions and knowledge gaps.

The “broadest approaches extend beyond single products to address larger ecological and social questions in a systemic framework. These methods draw from principles of ecology, biology and a vision of a future sustainable society to inform the different types of products and services which would then be needed” (Richardson, Irwin & Sherwin, 2005).

In regard with the following list, it is good to keep in mind key steps of our materials economy (extraction, production, distribution, consumption, and disposal), and to consider the main problem with this dominant and linear logic so far. The main issue is simple, “this is a linear system and we live on a finite planet, and you cannot run a linear system on a finite planet indefinitely” (Annie Leonard in Story of Stuff, 2008).

(Fig 15: Materials economy, inspired by Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard, 2008)

These approaches and theories of sustainability can be classified. Some can be considered as actual philosophy of consumption, others have a more technical approach, and finally tools exist to measure and evaluate sustainable solutions:


Theories Design Ethics: From the book written by Victor Papaneck, it adopts a wide focus approach to tackle the environmental, social and economic aspects of sustainability. It is considered as the origin of every other sustainable design theory and good design practices. Famous for his 10 questions before buying: “Do I really need it? Can I buy it second-hand? Can I buy it at a discount? Can I borrow it? Can I rent it? Can I lease it? Can I share it? Can we own it as a group? Can I build it myself? Can I buy a kit?” (Papanek, 1995). Papanek long advocated for a “redesign of design” in order to match sustainability: “Design, if it is to be ecologically responsible and socially responsive, must be revolutionary and radical in the truest sense. It must dedicate itself to nature’s principle of least effort, in other words, maximum diversity within minimum inventory or doing the most with the least. That means consuming less, using things longer, and being frugal about recycling. In many areas designers must learn how to redesign. In this way we may yet have survival through design.” (Papanek, 1984)

Industrial ecology: Developed by Charter and Chick in 1997, it straddles both product and systems based approaches. It was developed on four principles of design innovation based on repair, refine, redesign and rethink through the ecological paradigm.
“To move beyond redesign to rethink will require significant leaps in thinking, driven by the emphasis on creative problem-solving and opportunity seeking. An essential element of this process will be the development of a more systematic infrastructure to enable the cyclical flow of resources and energy within the product systems”(Charter & Chick, 1997)

Biomimicry: Pionnered by Datchefski and Benyus, biomimicry is a growing field in which the design of products and services mimic nature’s ecological cycles (2001; 1997). It shifts design from a largely technological and industrial to an ecological and biological paradigm.


Cradle to cradle: This approach of sustainability invented by McDonough and Braungart (2002), uses the metaphor of a biological and closed circuit, put in parallel with a technical one. Materials are tracked using a life cycle from ‘cradle to cradle’ rather than ‘cradle to grave’. A “closed resource loop” is formed when the waste from one industry become the raw materials for another. It calls for a radical design solution “to bring our economic and social systems into harmony with the wider ecological systems on which they depend” (McDonough & Braungart, 2002).

Manzini’s principles: Designer Manzini (1993, 2003) has developed an advanced thinking in the practice and theory of sustainable design. Starting from a “systems-wide perspective”, he questions the role that goods and services are going to play in a sustainable future and how they are going to be delivered. Designers have a role to play in envisioning “sustainable everyday life” and the utility and types of goods and services that would be needed in such a society. He defined principles for designers “to develop products that require care and with which the user can establish an emotional relationship, to look at the concept of utilisation, going beyond the notion of possession and personal consumption” (Manzini,1993).

Practices Waste Management: Based on the famous “reduce, reuse, recycle” concept, it centralises its attention on waste. It is nowadays criticized for lacking to address early stages of a product’s life cycle.

Zero Waste: Almost the opposite of the latter. It is a way of thinking about, designing, and managing products and processes to reduce the volume and toxicity of materials and thus waste, to conserve and recover all resources, and to ensure materials are neither burned nor buried. Zero Waste is not the same as 100 % recycling, since Zero Waste seeks to design waste out of the entire industrial production system, rather than just figure out how to re-use it.


Bespoke products-services: This theory emphasising on small scale, high quality, durable, timeless and bespoke products that provide an alternative to mass production. This is as much about addressing sufficiency of consumption as improving efficiency, care and repair as well as reducing resource intensity. “This labour-intensive production method allows for the creation of eco-efficient, decentralised and resource-preserving jobs. At the same time, durability, reparability and a high level of appreciation for the product leads to ecological gains. The customer’s involvement cements his or her willingness to us the product for a long time” (Ax, 2001).

Product-service systems: Although there are several types of PSS the idea is to design a service system (based upon infrastructure, network or information and communication technology) whose products have less environmental impact than individually owned and consumed products, while meeting similar needs. This approach will be further detailed.

Local Living Economies: Economic systems that prioritize human and community needs and interests by providing local resources, fair wages, and low environmental impacts. Author and activist David Korten writes, “Local Living Economies are made up of human-scale enterprises locally owned by people who have a direct stake in the many impacts associated with the enterprise”(2006). This idea is that a business owned by workers, community members, customers, and/or suppliers who directly bear the consequences of their actions is more likely to provide workers with safe, meaningful, familywage jobs; to produce useful, safe, high-quality products; to encourage local investment, stable markets and fair prices for suppliers and consumers; and to promote the trust and responsibility required for a healthy and sustainable social and natural environment.

Closed Loop Production: making the chain of extraction-productiondistribution-consumption-disposal work in a cycle rather than as a straight


line. Closed loop production means increasing productivity (thereby reducing waste); reusing the renewable energy for power; requiring producers to take full responsibility for their products; manufacturing products that can be repaired, reused, or recycled.

Corporate Social Responsibility: Customers and end-users are becoming increasingly concerned with the social, economic and environmental impact of business practice. So much so, organisations are adopting responsible leadership in every aspect of daily operations and provide a greater degree of transparency in accountability. Numerous surveys show that members of the public prefer companies that are ‘seen’ to be positively contributing to the environment and society as a whole.

Tools: ISO 14001: An international standard for environmental management schemes maintained by the International Standards Organization (ISO)

Life Cycle Assessment: LCA is a design tool that considers all the different stages of a product’s ‘life cycle: from extraction, to production, to distribution, to consumption/use and finally disposal. It is a common tool that assesses scientifically a product’s impact at each lifecycle stage. The decisions that can be taken at various points in the lifecycle have effects on both up and down streams. It is the most common tool of a range that supports life cycle management, minimizing environmental burdens

throughout the product/service lifecycle.

A lot of other principles, theories and tools exist addressing sustainability via design: design for disassembly, for disposal, for longevity, for modularity, for repair and maintenance, for reuse, etc (Shelton, 2007; Fuad-Luke, 2002). However, we choose to focus on the ones that best suited our research question and concept paradigm. Consequently, a closer look at product-service systems literature will be reviewed.


2.4 Product-service systems: a solution?

Researchers and institutions such as the UN and the EU have stated the need for product-service systems (PSS) to tackle the challenges of sustainability: SCORE!, SusProNet and the UNEP.

A PSS can be defined as consisting of “tangible products and intangible services designed and combined so that they jointly are capable of fulfilling specific customer’s needs” (Tischner et al., 2002). PSS is a new term for an old idea: “emphasizing access over ownership” (Rifkin, 2000). It is simply about sharing products among people – usually at local level – and recognizing that “green systems are just as important as green products” (Manzini, 1993). We already take part in these systems when we use rental DVDs, Laundromats, libraries, gyms and taxis; now people are starting to talk about PSS with regard to things that many of us don’t usually share, such as cars, tools appliances, and workspaces. Many see PSSs as an excellent vehicle to “enhance competitiveness and foster sustainability simultaneously” (Tukker, 2004).

Various classifications of PSS have been proposed: “product-oriented services, useoriented services, result-oriented” (Behrend et al., 2003; Brezet et al., 2001; Zaring et al., 2001). Product-oriented services are still oriented towards sales of products “with some extra services added” such as product take back, repair or maintenance (Tukker, 2004). Use-oriented services are geared towards use of products in different form, “while ownership usually stays with the provider” like car-sharing system or laundry (Tukker, 2004). In result-oriented services there is “no pre-determined product involved; client and provider agree on a result”, which could be a service or even an experience (Tukker, 2004). Consequently, a great variety of result-oriented services emerged at the community/local level. They are usually isolated, unique and spontaneous systems.

Therefore, use- and result-oriented systems seem more relevant to our proposed design concept. Product manufacturing and sells are inexistent; it is people who share what they already have. Although ownership doesn’t belong to the provider but remains with users, it is indeed a use-oriented system. “Through PSS, people can rent, lease, share and


pool products to use instead of buying them. In these services users would be still able to own a product, nevertheless the ownership is rather temporary” (Wimmer and Kang, 2006). Barriers to PSS development are consistent. The “social behaviour of

users/customers is potentially the largest barrier for PSS-realisation, as it is often difficult to make the user comprise the freedom gained from total ownership of the product, as opposed to partial ownership of the artefact” (McAloon & Andreasen, 2004; Manzini, 1993)

As researchers in PSS pointed out, from the consumers point of view most of the problems regarding our consumption and production patterns belong to one of three categories, or a combination of them “excessive consuming, product-owning and throw-away culture” (Wimmer and Kang, 2006). In this respect, PSSs are “highlighted because of their holistic lifespan thinking and flexible way of addressing the underlying demand” (Wimmer and Kang, 2006). Further, an integration of services and products is emphasized as a ‘social design activity’. Therefore, one of the “challenge is to facilitate a communication process which links needs and requirements effectively” (Ericsson, Müller, Larsson & Stark, 2009).

Design researchers Ezio Manzini and François Jégou have spent years researching a growing number of small, bottom-up community solutions for sharing tools, mobility, community spaces, and knowledge. They put forward the hopeful observation that these kinds of systems are emerging organically within communities, and they encourage designers to shepherd them forward, improving their visibility and effectiveness. In their research, Manzini and Jégou have tackled the emergence of shared “multiservice centers” ( Such multiservice

centers are part of an “empowered place”, a community in which social structures built into everyday life help to create and support sustainable practices. They tried to reference initiatives of what they call “creative communities” and “collaborative services” which gives a comprehensive view of this emerging phenomenon in the digital age. To explain their research Jégou said in an interview with Dwell. “Widespread connectivity is what makes product-service systems a new idea. These solutions already exist in various forms. Our project merely brought them together. There’s nothing sci-fi


about it. For example, from Beijing we took the idea of the Lift Club, a sort of safe hitchhiking service organized by way of mobile text messaging. All these things are banal locally, but when we introduce them elsewhere, they are innovations”(2004).

Design thinker John Thackara observed in his book In the Bubble (2005) that “while resources may be limited, people are abundant”. A fundamental shift from an economy based on stuff to one based on people – designed for systems and services, rather than things – is essential in the creation of sustainable communities through PSSs:

“In a less-stuff-more-people world, we still need systems, platforms, and services that enable people to interact more effectively and enjoyably. These platforms and infrastructures will require some technology and a lot of design. Connecting people, resources, and places to each other in new combinations, on a real-time basis, delivers demand-responsive services that, when combined with location awareness and dynamic resource allocation, have the potential to reduce drastically the amount of hardware – from gadgets to buildings – that we need to function effectively. Most of us are potentially both users and suppliers of resources. The principle use-not-own, can apply to all kinds of hardware: buildings, roads, vehicles, offices – and above all, people. For more or less anything heavy and fixed, we don’t have to own them – just know how and where to find them” (Thackara, 2005)


2.5 Opportunities for design management

From a design management perspective, economic, social and environmental aspects of sustainability are rarely studied together. Moreover, in research as in practice, there is only a weak link between environmental management, design management and product design (Frei, 1998; Karlsson & Luttropp 2006). And, if we add ‘service design’ through online PSS to this list, the gaps are even bigger.

Regarding strategic design management and its role to supporting sustainability there is still a lot to be done especially at the information and education level. “If design and design management is to continue to play a role in corporate strategy development, it is essential that designers and design managers become literate in the area of sustainability […]. The creative power of design can play a major role in integrating the tenets of sustainability and generating solutions that balance the tenets with new product and business model” (Kusz, 2005, p.33). Therefore connecting sustainability issues with designing a strategy from the start is still a challenge – and an opportunity.

Moreover, design management is about creating facilitation between multiple stakeholders: designers, end-users, businesses, and government… It is about facilitating organising a participatory creative environment, which goes beyond the traditional design structure. Integrating sustainability into the design field isn’t an easy task, as we have seen previously. However, most research on PSS stress that this particular type of solution – though it’s not very new – is presenting a tremendous potential for shaping sustainable design solutions. PSS is about designing solutions in the first place, rather then products. It is about designing satisfaction through services and experiences rather then only just functionalities. Finally PSS is about telling stories and connecting a product to its environment. In essence PSS takes a much more holistic perspective of what design is or was. And in this matter design management (and design thinking) are seen as fantastic opportunities to work and think with.


2.6 Knowledge gaps

Design management studies are often targeted to commercial activity, not necessarily community-based initiatives. On the opposite, PSS studies remain essentially design oriented, not necessarily looking at systemic aspects of sustainability or even the global potential for change that it implies. If we look at the design concept and PSS in general, a few field studies could be find that look at giving and acquiring habits regarding goods and services at the same time. Often researches are targeted on a single type of exchange or service. There is a gap for a general study of trading from exchanging, to hiring to purchasing goods and services locally.

We believe that there is an opportunity for design management to merge those gaps.

As seen in the literature, although research in PSS is developing, there are several gaps in: marketing research regarding PSS compared to, for example, green products. giving and acquiring habits regarding goods and services at the same time. personal aspects of involvement are less studied in comparison with economical, social and environmental effects of sustainability. design management and PSS are rarely taken into account at the same time.

Consequently, our field research aims to address those gaps by: providing marketing research for PSS usability and potential through a series of dedicated questions on goods but also services. asking about giving and acquiring habits of goods and services at local levels. studying personal motivations regarding sustainability in comparison with other spheres of sustainability, through open-ended questions. researching the potential of personal creativity as a driver for PSS through perceptions and aspirations around the sustainability concept.


3. Analysis of Primary Research Findings

“People are too often described and thought of by designers as users or consumers when, we really need to think of them as actors”. (Thackara, 2005)

The research carried out focused on understanding people’s perceptions according to a phenomenological approach using mix methods tools for research and analysis.

Several points have been investigated: understanding(s) and lived experience of sustainability ‘giving’ and disposal habits ‘getting’ and acquiring habits concerns, involvement and motivations to give and get goods and services locally.

As explained in the methodology we will only analyse results for the English and French surveys respectably focusing on London and Paris areas.

The age ranges vary from 22 to 60 in France, and 22 to 44 in the UK. The proportion of male and female in both countries are close to 50% with relatively more female responding in France than in the UK (55%). Collection was stopped at 100 however, only 84 people finished the survey in France and 76 in the UK. We believe that both groups offer a significant pool to analyse results and compare perceptions of these two urban areas.

For a complete view of the survey versions and results, refer to Appendix.


3.1 Understanding(s) of sustainability and actions

“What is sustainability?” Both groups responded to the question addressing several topics: environmental societal economical personal spiritual and beliefs

Environment The “environment” is by a large margin the most cited topic. People insist on factor such as “reducing” (or even “completely avoiding”) pollution, sourcing of more natural and renewable materials for production, and sharing products “that are already there”. Participants are stressing on having a responsible consumption, buying things that they really need. More generally sustainability is perceived as a good way of envisioning the future (“the only way” for some people). “Sustainable development” is often given as a clearer definition of the term, explained by the fact that it focuses on the “long term” and is perceived as a more positive term.

Society While cited as a societal aspect, sustainability is defined as a way of improving quality of life and living healthier, being more respectful of working conditions and considering the impacts of globalisation. Some participants talk about acting local to help building a more sustainable future. Also some stress the need for bridging generational gaps through implementation of new services and a more respectful way of dealing with older people or disabled people.

Economy Most people argue that the economy has neglected the environmental impacts for too long and that is now time to redefine the economy according to environmental possibilities. For example “consumer feedback” is cited as way to “humanize the


economy”. Only a few see this debate about sustainability as a lure to limit economic activities. Therefore, only a few don’t see this topic as a top priority for them.

Personal Interestingly a few people cite spirituality and more personal concerns to sustainability: “improving themselves” as human beings, having an “intimate connection to nature” and stop being selfish by “sharing more with one another and being there”. Personal aspects range from “awareness” and the need for more information to make clever and more responsible choices. Beliefs (either religious or “just personal”) are given as explanations to act more “responsively” and “ethically” with nature: “humans”, “planet”, “animals” and other living organisms.

“Is sustainability important to you? Are you ready to do more?” Sustainability is regarded as an important concern in both French and English group. With more than 80% people saying that they are concerned with issues related to sustainability. However, only around 50% say that they are ready to do more about it in France and about 60% in the UK. In the comments, a few people suggested that it was difficult to find ways to contribute to sustainability at their own level apart from “recycling”, being “concerned about energy consumption” and using “soft methods of transport” such as “bicycling” or “using public transports”. Also some people confess that the “lack of clear” and “impartial” information about these issues resulted in “discouragement” and consequently “not doing anything about sustainability at all”.

“What kind of sustainable practices are you involved in?” A majority of people say that they “recycle waste”, “use less plastic bags” (or “avoid using” them), try to buy “seasonal products” or look at “origins” of food they buy. Besides, respondents cite transport as a common way of being more sustainable (bike, public transport, “not having a car”), although some argue that it is probably “easier in a big city” like London or Paris “to behave this way”. “Giving clothes to charity” or friends is another important habit. Some respondents point out that they take back “things left on the streets and have never bought any furniture”.


3.2 Giving habits and disposal 3.2.1 Goods

(Fig 16: UK results for giving goods)

(Fig 17: French results for giving goods)


Different options exist for disposing of unwanted goods: from giving for free, to swapping, lending, leasing or selling. Respondents were asking to share their giving habits for several categories of goods: furniture, clothes, tools, appliances, vehicles and housing. Above are graphic tables of their answers in Paris and in London.

Learnings: give for free, swapping and convenience If we look globally at both tables we can see great similarities. Unsurprisingly, selling is very popular. Interestingly, giving for free is also very popular in France and in the UK, for example to charity. All categories of goods are given same rates for these types of “giving” methods in both countries. For example we can note that clothes are very popular items to dispose of freely (around 70%). Furniture items are also easily given to one another (almost 50%). Selling is popular for all types of goods; however secondhand tools are less likely to be sold. Also, we can note that selling second-hand clothes is popular in France, while in the UK swapping clothes seems to be more a cultural habit.

Swapping habits are impressively high as well, for instance swapping clothes is quite popular in both areas. However, minor differences can be noted, tools are more swapped in London than in Paris, but vehicles are more likely to be swapped in Paris than in London.

For leasing habits, differences are also noticeable. Unsurprisingly, house renting is something common and natural in both countries. However renting tools or vehicles in France seems to be more of a viable option than in the UK. Again tools are interesting while looking at lending. In France lending tools is more popular than in the UK.

Lending habits are only given a credit as far as tools are concerned. And there is a minor habit for lending housing or vehicles. A few people precise that it mostly “applies to holidays” and is “strongly reciprocal”.

Lastly, people strongly associate this step as disposing of goods and in this context, the point “convenience” as a key aspect to consider. Otherwise, some would consider “trashing” the objects instead of finding them a new life.


3.2.2 Services

(Fig 18: UK results for giving services)

(Fig 19: French results for giving goods)


Services also can be given to one another for free or in exchange of something else or simply shared with other service. Several categories of services were proposed: skills, knowledge or time with example of situation provided. Above are tables representing answers in percentage in the two selected areas.

Learnings: swapping, efforts and recommendations Globally swapping a service for another service is likely to be a key factor for participants, especially regarding skill swapping (70%). But what most people point out in the comments is that it implies “reciprocity”, “confidence” and “personal investment” or effort”. Some argue that they have “no time” at the moment to participate although most like the idea. Perhaps some suggest that groups of similar people (age, interest, social class) should get together to exchange skills, knowledge or time, especially to reduce “fear” and enhance “confidence”. However, some also call for more transgenerational exchange for example “shopping time” or even “sharing housing for an extra hand”. As a last point, respondents were quite enthusiastic about this particular approach to exchange: “discovering who lives on your doorstep” or “street” beyond the traditional “hello” is seen as a fantastic opportunity, through a “fun” and “new” way.

Interestingly, UK respondents are more likely to give services for free than French (approximately double rates). Giving time for free is quite popular amongst participants in the UK for example with more than 60% responses. Knowledge and skills are also likely to be given for free for around 50% of UK respondents.

Comparatively, selling services is therefore more plausible for French than UK respondents. Should we see signs of cultural differences?

Lastly, swapping services for goods seems less convenient, except maybe for the case of skill swapping.


3.3. Getting habits and acquiring 3.3.1 Goods

(Fig 20: UK results for getting goods)

(Fig 21: French results for getting goods)


Different options exist for sourcing things you need: from getting for free, to swapping, borrowing, renting or buying used goods. Respondents were asking to share their acquiring habits for the same categories of goods as for giving: furniture, clothes, tools, appliances, vehicles and housing. Above are the tables of answers.

Learning: second-hand, tool borrowing and a lot of advices Results for UK and France are quite similar again with some minor differences. We can remember that buying new and second-hand goods are significant factors. However, borrowing tools is a noticeable habit in both countries and even stronger in France (70% compared to 45% in the UK). Acquiring furniture for free is quite common with almost 40% responses. Swapping clothes (as seen previously) is popular with 40% as well.

There are strong habits for buying brand new items and second-hand, though getting things for free and swapping are representing quite significant habits amongst both groups of participants.

Although compared to giving goods these actions should be more natural, people point out that they would “need recommendations” on things to share and how to share them. Some confess that although choices seem to be “almost unlimited”, possibilities for trading seem to be even more “complex”. In quite a few comments people say that they would appreciate “stories” or “paths” to use effectively the online service. Indeed this step would require creativity and invention of new ways to access goods. Implementation of such a service would signify more real-world inspirations, perhaps building on previous similar initiatives.


3.3.2 Services

(Fig 22: UK results for getting services)

(Fig 23: French results for getting services)


You can also get services for free or in exchange of something else or simply shared with another service. Again above are tables of answers in percentage.

Learning: reciprocity and fairness Compared to tables of getting services, these results for getting are coherent. In other words, people seem to be fair and consistent in their attitudes to services. As pointed out previously, services involve reciprocity for respondents; therefore trading or transactional aspects are particularly unpopular. Hence, the high results of services swap and get services for free. However, swapping a service for another service is more appreciated than any other option, while acquiring freely is another serious option, especially in the UK.

Details show that acquiring services represent differences amongst countries, especially while considering buying services. Buying skills seems to be more natural in the UK (more than 50% while a bit more than 30% in France).

What we can remember is the importance of skill swapping and sharing services for another service in general which seems to be a popular habit.


3.4 Involvement and concerns

(Fig 24: UK results for sources of involvement)

(Fig 25: French results for sources of involvement)


On a scale of 1 to 5, surveyed groups were given multiple choices to target their motivations to give & get goods and services at their own local level. Choices were given as following: act local, anti-consumerism, help one another, learn new knowledge, learn new skills, meeting my neighbours, reduce my carbon footprint, saving money, saving transport time, socialize.

Although, motivations and aspirations themes were abstract, they are a great source of inspiration for developing a coherent service with what people are actually looking for. Moreover, the comments for this section were of great help for understanding further and underlying motivations. Feedback on the blog was also useful, especially from a co-designing perspective.

Important: Though all propositions are above the average, it appears that “helping one another” is the most important point for respondents. UK respondents are even more enthusiastic about this idea (4,27/5) than French (4,11/5). “Saving money” is the second most important criteria for respondents in France (3,9/5) and in the UK (4,19/5).

Less important: Last source of concern is “anti-consumerism” for both groups at relatively the same rate (3,33 and 3,36). It is almost the same for “reducing [one’s] carbon footprint” that is also at the bottom of the list for concerns. Saving time in transports is less a source of concern for both groups as well.

Significant differences: Globally UK respondents find the list of choices more important than French participants as average scores are more important. This could be interpreted as a more positive response to the concept and/or choices given. We will remember several points. Learning new knowledge seems to be more important in the UK (4,19) than in France (3,58). Also meeting neighbours is judged more important in the UK (3,85) than in France (3,46).


3.5 Synthesis and key findings

Sustainability Although sustainability is claimed to be important for participants, this importance is relative. Results show a great variety of responses and themes: economic social environmental cultural personal

In terms of sustainable actions, people give “recycling” and “responsible energy consumption” to a large margin. However, when asked, people are clearly ready to do more about sustainability. Yet, they call for “clearer solutions”, “transparency” and “traceability” of their actions, perhaps as an informal reward. In other words, while their motivation is strong, the feeling of confusion is even deeper. This leads to inaction and pessimism about what’s already undertaken.

Giving Selling is probably the most common reflex to dispose of unwanted goods, however giving things for free is also popular. Interestingly swapping and lending are important areas as well. Services are likely to be swapped for another service or given for free. Confidence, trust and convenience are key words to remember. Moreover, recommendations of plausible methods and/or things and services to give are needed.

Getting People will try to buy new or second-hand goods to match their needs. Accessing goods for free is also an important aspect. Advices, “stories” and guidelines are important aspects to consider. Again services are likely to be given for free or swapped for another service. As relative efforts are needed to access goods and services, people call for reciprocity and fairness of treatment on both sides.


Motivations “Helping one another” comes first in reasons for using such a PSS while “saving money” is another key point to consider. “Socializing” and other concrete and local themes are more important than more abstract and distant notions such as reducing one’s carbon footprint or anti-consumerism. Direct or informal reward and human factor seem to be as important as materialistic concerns.

Personal issues By trying to synthesize our findings, another piece of the sustainability puzzle emerged that directly responses to previous pieces seen in the literature review: environmental, economical and social issues. We believe these personal issues are important key aspects to regard if sustainability is to be shaped and understood. A visual summary of our findings regarding this issue is provided on the page.

The next chapter analyse findings of the primary research in regard with findings of the literature. Its goal is to explore similarities and differences between the two to come up with informed recommendations.



Personal issues













(Fig 26: The sustainability puzzle, personal issues)


4. Discussion

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for the day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” (Lao Tzu in Tao Te Ching)

The previous chapter illustrated people’s perceptions and feedback to the concept. An analysis and discussion of these findings is provided in this chapter in regard with findings of the previous literature.

Two themes emerged in the findings, which will be discussed in this chapter: - The demand for building localized goods and services exchange - The potential of design management for building local PSS shaping sustainability


4.1 Demand for building localized goods and services exchange

Considering reviewed literature and findings, the potential of the proposed online PSS design concept is significant. Several points have been revealed: interest of end-users for sustainability issues sharing habits in place in surveyed areas designers praising for these types of solutions government and EU funding for research and implementation

Surveyed groups are by a large margin interested in sustainability issues, however most point out that their concerns are more personal and short-term, than conceptual and long-term. It seems that only through meeting personal and short-term needs, one can get results in the long-term for global sustainability issues. The fact that both groups replied that “helping one another” is their major source of concern regarding such a system is interesting, regarding the poor score of reducing carbon footprint for example. The direct and short-term signification of such a system should probably focus on human and rewarding aspects, which is perhaps a challenge for an online platform. How to humanize and make an online platform connect to reality? This should be a major source of concern for future implementation.

Some sharing habits are in place and a few people are asking for simpler, convenient and cheaper solutions to be sustainable, than traditional green products or recycling. Recommendations, creative solutions and the fun factor are possible drivers for them to change their habits and be involved in more sustainable practices. Breaking past cultural assumptions that equate affluence with ownership may still be the greatest challenge to wide implementation of PSS, but what if the alternative is cheaper and more sustainable, doesn’t clutter our homes, and connects us with our neighbours? What if we use cars, tools, appliances and workspaces the way we use Laundromats, libraries, gyms and taxis? What if, in short, PSS can staggeringly improve our quality of life? For instance, by creating learning experiences, friendly relationships and unexpected stories along the way.


Designers and researchers are praising to make these solutions more global, replicable and open to creativity (SCORE!, SusProNet, UNEP). Indeed online PSSs already working are usually pre-packed solutions to one particular problem or issue. They are not generalist systems that leave the open door to inventing brand new solutions. They are usually isolated systems working independently or even against each other. A stronger need for what we referred to as “service design” in the literature is demanded. Findings indicate on this matter a strong will to participate, co-create and develop creativity. Co-designing services with people at every step of the process is a challenge but also probably a great opportunity. Managing this process from creation, to evolution and continual transformation is a design management challenge.

Besides, demands from the top and funding are emerging, making these kinds of solutions interesting for governments and global institutions. Conceptually they are increasingly seen as drivers of innovation but also sustainable solutions to save money, reduce carbon emissions and therefore meeting environmental objectives and agreements. These public funding opportunities also are making such PSSs viable solutions. Moreover on the economic side, financial partnerships and infrastructure collaboration are being reinforced to reduce costs and risks.

Lastly, regarding demands, some challenges can be identified for successful implementation of such PSS: gap between the concept of sustainability and concrete actions to take gap between virtual and real-world experiences accessibility and convenience of the platform effectiveness and trust of products and services provided design an inspiring, fun and beautiful PSS in order to change behaviours create a generalist alternative to past PSS initiatives


4.2 Potential of design management for building PSS

One the one hand, PSSs are systemic services that connect products, services and above all: people. One the other hand, the notion of sustainability revealed to be even more complex than we expected. Surveyed people pointed out personal aspects as key drivers for their involvement to sustainability, some even talking about spiritual values. Integrating and considering all kinds of external aspects (environment, economy, society) and the multiplicity of personal and intimate factors such as trust, reciprocity or even faith, are design challenges

This complexity and human factors are challenges for design management. As we have seen in the literature, design management is particularly well equipped to tackle such diversity and holistic perspectives, through design thinking for instance. Using left and right brain thinking at the same time through combining different kinds of people or thinkers is what design thinking is all about. As reviewed previously, this mix of emotional and analytical thinking allows to confront divergent spheres of thinking, but also to come up with new ideas, scenarios or futures. It is not a perfect recipe to success, however it presents a fantastic opportunity to test ideas, prototype design concepts and share knowledge amongst stakeholders inside and outside the organization. In order words, design thinking, as a tool for designing, is a both a filter and salad boil. It reviews a diversity of perspectives while at the same time creates emulation, recognition and involvement at every level. This process if managed properly and honestly can create the “next competitive advantage” (Martin, 2009) by “integrating innovation, user experience and brand value” (Lockwood, 2009).


Fig 27: Design thinking shaping sustainability issues



“Expand the capabilities of people to lead the kind of lives they value” (Amartya Sen, 1998)

Based on in the in-depth investigation of end-users but also regarding the literature review on sustainability and PSS, several recommendations have been devised regarding the implementation of the proposed design concept:


A multidisciplinary approach to PSS has been a seminal idea along this thesis. It has been put forward by the literature review and along the discussion. Looking at all sides of the design problem (economic, ecological, social and personal) and reflecting on design management as a potential solution to bringing these different voices and ideas together, we strongly recommend communication, sharing of expertises and experiences to shape a more sustainable future through design.


Linking designers and users is another point that appeared in this thesis. Not only looking at problem-solving as a solution to the design problems, but putting forward users, in a service design approach way to imagine solutions together. Some people are willing to be more involved and active in the process of design by co-designing services that they (in the end) will use for themselves. In this respect designers should be seen more as facilitators, listeners and translators of needs and aspirations. We argued that it is only this way, that design can shape sustainability.


The need for collaboration of designers and complementary skill development around issues of sustainability is necessary. Although partially investigated in the


paper, we believe that emulation within the design community around sustainability is already happening. Bringing designers from different backgrounds (graphic designers, information designers, service designers and design thinkers) is a key step in making such solutions true innovations. Moreover, we believe that more designers (and design managers) need to become literate in the field of sustainability to reinforce design solutions and transform design to make it more sustainable in the future.


In this perspective, there is a need for knowledge exchange amongst environmentalists, economists, social experts, designers and managers in order to find viable roadmaps and scenarios. Although, there is no one-size-fits-all scenario or future to achieving a sustainable and wish-able future, it is only through dialogue, debate and common understanding that insightful decisions and smart actions can be taken.


As far as business model is concerned, again there is no one-size-fits-all business model solution as there isn’t one-size-fits-all solution to achieving sustainability. Therefore, we don’t pretend to recommend a single model but rather outline possible scenarios. Several business models are plausible: o o o o o o Entrance fee or monthly fee to access the service. Pay-per-use, fee possibly depending on nature of service/good used. Advertising supporting the PSS costs of the online service. Virtual credits to be traded among users (in the manner of time banking). Mixed approach with free services and commissions on other services. Evolving approach from totally free services to successive paying services.


The evolutionary and somehow organic development of this online service (with users involved), necessitate a continuous feedback and redesign of the platform but also probably its business model. For instance depending on the nature of use, partnerships could be added to the service and change its nature. The open innovation approach represents an opportunity to quickly match and target


people’s needs, but on the opposite it is complex and changing overtime. Therefore management is risky and complex but, must be considered at all times.


Relying on public funding and infrastructure as well a previous public financed research (SCORE!, SusProNet, UNEP) could be an interesting route to consider. Build on previous knowledge, experience and initiatives already undertaken, under development or studied.


Developing a broad and generalist brand for local PSSs to merge, find new users and market beyond traditional eco-customers.


Building on previous PSS successes and initiatives, and replicate it in similar areas where these systems are needed. In other words, building a catalyst platform, without necessarily reinventing the wheel.


Conclusions and further research

(Marshall McLuhan, 1964)

“There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew”.

This study poses the main research question: how can design management shape sustainability at local levels through an online platform for exchange, hire and purchase of products and services? This question was investigated through an online PSS concept.

Looking at the literature and findings we concluded that design management was well positioned into encapsulating and orchestrating complex aspects of sustainability. In this investigation we extracted relevant sub-concepts in between sustainability and design, what we referred to as the sustainability puzzle: environment, economic, social and personal issues. We argued that these various pieces and perspectives needed to be assembled in a brand new way.

On top of that, the systemic approach of PSS also implies thinking in systems; one thing that design management through design thinking is particularly good at. Linking local and global, virtual and real-world experiences, past initiatives and new needs are true challenges that design management aims to tackle. Looking at personal issues as drivers for involvement we praised for an open innovation approach using service design as a tool to grasp aspirations and imagination.

Lastly, we concluded that putting PSS at the centre, through a more generalist and open perspective was a challenge and an opportunity. In order to be meaningful, attractive and user-friendly, it requires coherence, consistence and a lot of design.


Further research Bellow is a list of recommendations for further research and investigations, based on issues raised in this study:


Continue the research started on other parts of the world to compare urban and rural areas, developed and developing countries. Our first recommendation would be to continue these investigations elsewhere to compare and/or confirm our first results with other panels of respondents.


Broadening the research, including the two other groups of stakeholders (design management experts; and businesses, organizations and institutions). Design management certainly means confronting and according different points of view to a same (often multifaceted) problem. Therefore, studying other groups of stakeholders would be another recommendation to continue exploring the fields of PSS, sustainability and design management. Our approach was certainly bottom-up oriented, looking at the very end of the materials economy: endusers/consumers. To be faithful to the theories of design thinking, confronting our first findings with analytical thinking such as experts and hands-on experience of businesses would be of great interest in order to triangulate every corner of the studied issue.


Build on the research and collected information through the blog, perhaps through co-designing and prototyping solutions with users.


A detailed research on specific aspects raised in this research: sustainability issues detailed in the sustainability puzzle and particularly findings of personal issues and explore further spiritual issues.


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