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Lifesaving: A multi-perspective approach for extending the service life of mobile internet-enabled devices to reach a resource light economy

Applicant Blumer Yann Benedict
Number 185630
Funding scheme NRP 73 Sustainable Economy
Research institution Center for Enterprise Development School of Management and Law ZHAW
Institution of higher education Zurich University of Applied Sciences - ZHAW
Main discipline Science of management
Start/End 01.06.2019 - 31.05.2022
Approved amount 395'862.00
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All Disciplines (3)

Discipline
Science of management
Other disciplines of Environmental Sciences
Psychology

Keywords (9)

Mobile internet enabled devices; Digitalization; Business models; Life cylce assessment; Consumer decision-making; Reuse; Behavioural insights; Sustainable consumption patterns; Communication and information

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
Eine Verlängerung der aktiven Nutzungsdauer von Handys & Co kann deren ökologischen Fussabdruck deutlich reduzieren. Ein interdisziplinäres Team der ZHAW und Universität Zürich entwickelt dazu innovative Ansätze. Damit diese erfolgreich sind müssen diese wirtschaftlich tragfähig und für KonsumentInnen attraktiv sein.
Lay summary
Porträt/Projektbeschrieb
Negative Umweltauswirkungen von mobilen internetfähigen Geräten wie beispielsweise Mobiltelefone oder Tablets fallen zu einem überwiegenden Teil bei ihrer Herstellung an. Dies hat unter anderem die Studie «Digitale Suffizienz» gezeigt, auf welcher dieses Projekt aufbaut . Aus Sicht einer ressourcenleichten Wirtschaft ist es darum zentral, dass solche Geräte möglichst lange aktiv genutzt werden, bevor ein neues Gerät gekauft wird.
Um das Themenfeld «Lebenszeitverlängerung für Mobilgeräte» ganzheitlich zu verstehen analysieren wir nicht nur die Kauf- und Nutzungsmotive von Mobilgeräten, sondern auch die Perspektive der verschiedenen Marktakteure wie beispielsweise Repair Shops oder Plattformen für Gebrauchtgeräte. Ebenfalls analysieren wir die Umweltauswirkungen verschiedener möglicher Strategien zur Verlängerung der Lebensdauer von Mobilgeräten.

Hintergrund / Ausgangslage
Bisher wurden Ansätze zur Verlängerung der Lebensdauer von Mobilgeräten (z.B. Reparatur, oder Weitergabe), isoliert und wenig systematisch betrachtet. Vor allem fehlt es an Verständnis darüber, welche Rolle Konsumenten und Konsumentinnen spielen, um die Kreislaufwirtschaft solcher Geräte zu fördern. Aufbauend auf unsere bestehende Expertise in bezüglich digitaler Suffizienz, Verhaltensinterventionen und der systematischen Analyse der Umweltauswirkungen von ICT entwickeln und vergleichen wir Ansätze zur Lebenszeitverlängerung von Mobilgeräten.

Ziele
Gemeinsam mit unseren Praxispartnern erarbeiten wir konkrete Massnahmen zur Verlängerung der Lebensdauer von Mobilgeräten. Mindestens eine dieser Strategien wird im Rahmen eines Feldversuchs getestet und evaluiert. Dies könnte zum Beispiel ein Prototyp eines kommerziellen Angebots sein, oder auch eine Informationskampagne. So können die gewonnen Forschungsergebnisse in einem realen Setting umgesetzt und getestet werden.

Bedeutung / möglicher Nutzen
Das Projekt trägt dazu bei, wissenschaftlich abgestützte und konkret umsetzbare Ansätze zur Verlängerung der Lebensdauer mobiler Geräte zu entwickeln. Neben den angestrebten positiven Auswirkungen auf den Ressourcenverbrauch soll das Projekt dazu dienen, die komplexen Zusammenhänge zwischen den beteiligten Akteuren (Konsumenten, Unternehmen, NGOs) besser zu verstehen. Dies ermöglicht es längerfristig, nachhaltige Konsummuster in einer Kreislaufwirtschaft zu fördern.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 04.04.2019

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Project partner

Publications

Publication
Digital transformation—life cycle assessment of digital services, multifunctional devices and cloud computing
Itten René, Hischier Roland, Andrae Anders S. G., Bieser Jan C. T., Cabernard Livia, Falke Annemarie, Ferreboeuf Hugues, Hilty Lorenz M., Keller Regula L., Lees-Perasso Etienne, Preist Chris, Stucki Matthias (2020), Digital transformation—life cycle assessment of digital services, multifunctional devices and cloud computing, in The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment.
Direkte und indirekte Umwelteffekte der Informations- und Kommunikationstechnologie
Bieser Jan C. T., Coroamă Vlad C. (2020), Direkte und indirekte Umwelteffekte der Informations- und Kommunikationstechnologie, in Sustainability Management Forum | NachhaltigkeitsManagementForum, 1.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Wuppertal Institut für Klima, Umwelt und Energie Germany (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Zentrum Technik und Gesellschaft, TU Berlin Germany (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
73rd LCA Discussion Forum: Digital transformation. LCA of digital services, multifunctional devices and cloud computing Talk given at a conference Indirect effects of digitalization on the environment 21.11.2019 Wädenswil, Switzerland Bieser Jan;
73rd LCA Discussion Forum: Digital transformation. LCA of digital services, multifunctional devices and cloud computing Talk given at a conference LIFESAVING – Assessing environmental implication of service life extension of mobile devices from multiple perspectives 21.11.2019 Wädenswil, Switzerland Blumer Yann Benedict;


Self-organised

Title Date Place

Knowledge transfer events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Date Place Persons involved
Shaping a sustainable digital world Workshop 08.05.2020 Online, Switzerland Bieser Jan; Jobin Marilou;


Self-organised

Title Date Place
1st advisory board meeting 15.01.2020 Zurich, Switzerland

Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Media relations: print media, online media Extending the lifetime of mobile devices to reduce their environmental impact: a glimpse on the proj SocietyByte Western Switzerland Rhaeto-Romanic Switzerland Italian-speaking Switzerland German-speaking Switzerland 2020
Media relations: print media, online media Starkes Engagement der ZHAW im NFP73 ZHAW Blog für Forschung und Entwicklung German-speaking Switzerland 2019

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
172453 Green Hospitals: Environmental Impact Assessment, Resource Efficiency, and Hands-on Applications 01.09.2017 NRP 73 Sustainable Economy

Abstract

With increasing digitalization, the ubiquitous use of smartphones and other mobile internet-enabled devices (MIEDs) in society, has shown to have significant detrimental environmental impacts primarily due to short service lives and the high frequency of replacement of MIEDs, which demands increased extraction of resources for production of new devices. Consumers’ behaviours and decisions, when they acquire, use, and dispose MIEDs, affect the service life of a device, positively and negatively. Various socio-psychological factors such as knowledge, emotions, or habits drive such behaviours. However, consumption patterns are also shaped by the available products and services, and regulations within their socio-economic context, and may implicitly result in extending the service life of the MIED. For example, a consumer could purchase a second-hand device from a reseller, thus giving the device a second service life, get a broken component repaired by the manufacturer, or resell the device online. Prolonged, or multiple, service lives of MIEDs result in lower demand for brand new devices and thus a reduction of the environmental impacts of production. While in the context of a circular economy, there are currently a few options in Switzerland to repair, refurbish, reuse or recycle MIEDs, all which extend their service life, only a minority of consumers make use of such sustainable options. Furthermore, the market potential for these options remains untapped when the entire customer base has not been fully engaged.This project investigates what are the options consumers can choose to extend the service life of their MIEDs, what are the environmental impacts of these different options, and how could they be implemented in the current Swiss socio-economic context. We take a holistic perspective on the evaluation of these options by considering three interlinked perspectives, which affect the potential and scalability of options: individual consumer acceptance and the underlying drivers and barriers, environmental impacts, and economic viability. A multi-disciplined research team from five institutes within the Zurich University of Applied Sciences and University of Zurich cover the required environmental psychology, media psychology, life cycle assessment and business disciplines. Thus, we implement a mixed-methods approach including consumer research and design thinking, as well as life cycle assessments, and scenario analysis. Furthermore, the project is supported by an advisory board made up of key Swiss stakeholders including Swisscom, Samsung, WWF, Revendo, amongst others, As part of the testing of potential service life extending options, a field study will be completed with one of these project partners.The project is divided into four phases: The first phase develops the understanding of the service lifetime extending options currently existing in Switzerland and abroad, which actors are offering them, as well as what are the current direct and indirect environmental impacts (e.g., rebound) of these options. For example, what are environmental impacts and benefits of refurbishing a laptop for resale by a reseller, such as Revendo. The second and third phases develop, evaluate and test future activities for eliciting sustainable behaviour from the MIED user. Finally, the last phase is a final synthesis of the results from the entire project.At the end of the project, we expect to provide a holistic overview of: how consumer’s acquire, use and dispose of their MIEDs; who the relevant actors are in Switzerland; and the environmental impacts of the current service life extension options. Most importantly, through creative integration of the key stakeholders and consumers, we will develop evaluated and tested activities for new service life extension options in consideration of consumer acceptance, environmental impact, and economic viability.
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