A business model SHI(F)T! It’s time to be creative about sustainability

Differing from the traditional perspective that sustainable practices create a barrier to innovation for large industries, I believe it is, in fact, the opposite

Illustration: Tabata Gerbasi

by Leonardo Massarelli

We are on the brink of a massive shift in the way we are living, especially our relationship with brands, products and the environment. There is a huge opportunity for businesses to rethink their operational strategy to empower sustainable well-being in our society.

It is clear we need to take global action to take care of our environment. Our survival as humans depend on critical and systemic thinking and on reshaping our consumption behaviors. As a creative leader, I am deeply passionate and involved in this mission that exists in a unique intersection between business, products, and user, but this is no longer enough.

Differing from the traditional perspective that sustainable practices create a massive barrier to innovation for large industries, I believe it is, in fact, the opposite. There is rather an immense opportunity for industries to create better businesses that offer great experiences that contribute to a more balanced and environmentally conscious society.

A recent study showed that 10% of laundry machines are thrown away after less than five years of use. This percentage continues to climb year after year showing that we need to confront and challenge this negative trend. Already, state legislators in the US are gaining traction with a “Right to Repair” bill to empower consumers by providing better access to affordable and comprehensible repair for goods.

Hopefully the “Right to Repair” will help kickstart a more mainstream trend for governments to introduce more rules and regulations that push brands to produce quality products built to last while also providing accessible repair or buyback solutions.

How is it that an industry leader like Amazon can push to bring people back to the moon by 2023 while at the same time they are incinerating and dumping an estimated 3 million new products in landfills last year in France alone? Items that have been returned or sit on shelves too long are disposed of because it is cheaper than returning to suppliers and completely legal.

It’s unbelievable that as humans, we put so much energy into designing and producing amazing products with high production costs and high price tags that end up in landfills mere years later because of performance issues. Who wouldn’t want to be able to exchange a single component like a battery to fix a malfunctioning phone to increase its lifecycle?

As a designer, I believe that constraints create possibilities for new interpretations, interactions, and business models. Like it or not, constraints are creative seeds! The world has no more space for excessive packaging or products that don’t allow for parts to be replaced or repaired. Humans are responsible for countless artistic movements that generate desire. Like modernism or minimalism, it is time we create a new “ism”, like “sustainism”. We have an opportunity to make real change! As a society, we are responsible for our possible futures and this alternative way of thinking can help bring us there.