Valuing the environment and customers

Steve Creed, Director Business Programmes

In the UK, where around two million tonnes of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) is placed on the market each year, you’d be right to question the environmental impact.  Indeed this growing consumption means that over 1.5 million tonnes of waste EEE (WEEE) was generated in 2015 alone. Unless business models change, increasing population and growing resource scarcity and price volatility will have a substantial impact on business profitability and resilience.

However, with increasing consumer appetite for circular business models such as incentivised trade-in, leasing and service-systems there is a huge opportunity.  In fact, our new report Switched on to value: powering business change shows us that by using resources more sustainably, the electricals industry could realise £4.4billion worth of financial benefit, prevent one million tonnes of waste, and save 14 million tonnes of CO2 emissions.

Businesses are already starting to access this opportunity. Just the other day I was walking through Baker Street tube station in London when I saw a poster advertising a company which provides a ‘while you wait’ repair service  to gadgets like phones and tablets. It started with one outlet in 2013 and has grown to 13 in London with plans to expand to other UK cities this year. It’s great to see this business model becoming more mainstream. This clearly indicates increasing consumer interest which in fact echoes our own findings. But if the major players in the sector want to access some of these rewards they need to do more. 

The key to achieving this is by putting resources and customers at the very heart of everything – and our research shows the case for this is strong.  This is why, through our electrical sustainability action plan (esap), we are supporting the industry, including global brands, to develop pioneering customer-centred and resource efficient business models.

It was through esap that Argos introduced its Gadget trade in service, and we were able to demonstrate to Amazon that the market for refurbished products existed, informing the thinking behind its Certified Refurbished scheme.  So we see that the circular economy isn’t just a sustainability initiative, it is a way of increasing the value in which both the customer and suppliers can share. Our research and delivery projects indicate that customers want a convenient experience and assurance on the quality of a product or service they receive, especially if the product has been used before.  Here the circular economy has the potential to satisfy customer needs better than linear business models. This is because it offers convenience and solves product maintenance and disposal issues for them.  In the case of the Argos Gadget trade-in service and Samsung’s Upgrade direct leasing offering, customers are able to recover the value for their used smartphones without worrying about the issues of data eradication.

We never stand still here at WRAP, and with EEE consumption predicted to increase 19% in the next three years, it is vital that we don’t.  Since its inception, esap has built the evidence base for change, and the challenges presented in the Switched on to value report represent huge opportunities for growth, prosperity and business resilience across the EEE sector.

To unlock this potential and build a platform for developing a circular economy, esap is evolving into esap 2025 – a unique space for collaboration, innovation and action across the industry. esap 2025 will see us working together with members from across the EEE industry to co-create targets as a priority and: 

  • identify, influence and report changes in household behaviour to reduce environmental and resource impact of EEE;
  • achieve a marked % reduction in product returns and damage – as reported by signatories; and
  • support the development of resilient and profitable business models, built around providing value to customers. 

We are working towards a circular EEE economy that has the environment and customers at its centre. Join us on the journey – help us set targets, measure and act, and together we can work towards creating a brighter future. Find out more here www.wrap.org.uk/sustainable-electricals/esap

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