THE STRUGGLE AGAINST PLANNED OBSOLESCENCE IN TRANSPORTATION
- 1 FROM THE MINUTES 2018
- 1.1 WHO’S TO BLAME?
- 1.2 THE FOUR FACES OF PLANNED OBSOLESCENCE
- 1.3 IT’S ALL ABOUT PERCEPTION
- 1.4 SOLUTIONS IN ACTION
- 1.5 INDUSTRY COMMITMENTS
- 1.6 THE MONTREAL ROADMAP AGAINST PLANNED OBSOLESCENCE IN THE TRANSPORTATION SECTOR
FROM THE MINUTES 2018
The automotive industry is no stranger to planned obsolescence. In fact, they invented it when General Motors introduced “dynamic obsolescence.” In 1920, the company’s president Alfred P. Sloan Jr. responded to saturation in the U.S. automotive market by announcing that the company was going to roll out a new car model each year. This shift had a massive impact on global consumer culture. Planned obsolescence quickly became fundamental to product lifecycles. Consumers are less willing to repair broken products, and more likely to buy products with shorter and shorter working lives. Despite pressure to develop more sustainable business practices, few manufacturers have made an effort to break the cycle of planned obsolescence.
WHO’S TO BLAME?
According to Somchai Harnhirun, the problem of planned obsolescence is threefold:
Consumers base purchase decisions on many factors: design, functionality, environmental impact… but also price. Mass produced products with built-in obsolescence are often more affordable than more durable products.
Companies have a responsibility to shareholders to use profit as the main driver for business decisions. Whether a company considers other factors (societal, environmental) depends on its ethical position.
Governments have the dual objectives of generating economic growth while protecting consumers and the environment. Governments need to shift from shortterm to long-term planning, balancing economic and environmental impacts.
“Regulation must be used as an incentive. We have to connect the two things: regulation is one thing, but it’s even better when it’s accompanied by incentives: fiscal, tax measures (…) That’s what I call smart ecology,” according to Jean-Dominique Senard
"We cannot forget that the future is not a fiction. We can make decisions to bring the future to the present. The future is today" - Izabella Teixeira
THE FOUR FACES OF PLANNED OBSOLESCENCE
When manufacturers drop support for older technologies, forcing users to buy new products.
When a product aesthetically goes out of style, encouraging consumers to upgrade to stay fashionable.
When manufacturers stop providing support and parts for models that are no longer functioning optimally.
When a physical product is designed to last for a limited time and then deteriorate.
IT’S ALL ABOUT PERCEPTION
According to an Equiterre report on planned obsolescence, 86% of Canadians think household appliances are designed to have a limited lifecycle, while 25% have switched to a new product because of the way it looks.
SOLUTIONS IN ACTION
PAY LESS TAX WHEN YOU REPAIR IT
Sweden offers its citizens a tax break for repairing instead of replacing broken products.
AN INTERNATIONAL MOVEMENT OF FIXERS
Repair Café is an international network of local cafés where people share knowledge and resources, working together to fix broken tech devices and appliances.
During a roundtable held ahead of this Working session, the experts present committed to:
Dialogue between stakeholders NGOs will start a dialogue with companies that are ready to change their business models and solve problems related to planned obsolescence.
Data sharing Sharing data now will help to verify the feasibility of adapting to new business models.
Calls for submissions The wisdom of the crowd will be called upon for proposals on defining the problem and the KPIs to measure the progress of eliminating planned obsolescence.
THE THROWAWAY ECONOMY, STEP BY STEP
Products are mass-produced cheaply overseas ↓ Industry uses non-renewable energy resources ↓ Local workers lose jobs ↓ Consumers must replace poor quality products ↓ Products are discarded into the waste stream ↓ Brands lose their value and popularity for manufacturing disposable products
THE MONTREAL ROADMAP AGAINST PLANNED OBSOLESCENCE IN THE TRANSPORTATION SECTOR
Participants in this Working session shared actionable ideas that can be realistically accomplished in the 12 months between Movin’On 2018 and 2019.
Implement labelling and transparency for manufacturers
- Design products that make it easier for people, not consumers
- Develop new business models around product sustainability
- Implement an intelligent supply chain that tracks and optimizes product lifecycles
- Modular design that allows the easy replacement of parts
Add sensors that track a product’s lifecycle
- Use data to map part replacements and product repair
- Develop technology that can more easily sort through product data
- Enable industry and government to exchange data throughout the supply chain
- Use consumer data to inform industrial and political decisions
Develop forced warranties that require customers to return obsolete or broken products
- Implement laws around mandatory product durability and warranty periods
- Develop sustainability guidelines; name and shame companies that don’t comply
- Create incentives for industry to develop long-lasting products
- Add a value-added tax to disposable products and an exemption to durable ones
- Use social media to inform consumers and drive change
- Make product lifecycle data accessible to consumers
- Move towards shared ownership and rental, ensuring maximum usage
- Share product environmental impact data with consumers
- Use social media to call out companies that use planned obsolescence
IT'S THE LAW
In France, as of 2016, appliance manufacturers must:
- Repair or replace defective products for free up to two years after a product is purchased
- Declare the expected lifespan of their products
- Inform consumers about the availability of spare parts