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Focus on circular economy and sustainable business models

Published: 17 December 2018

In a new project, funded by the Kamprad Family Foundation, Luleå University of Technology's researchers Thomas Zobel and Åsa Ericson will investigate how reuse can be more central for companies in the sports and outdoor gear industry. The goal is to increase companies' knowledge of digitization and sustainable business models.

Technology has changed the secondhand business– social media and other online channels have made it easy for people to get in touch with each other to sell or exchange all sorts of items. A new three-year project at Luleå University of Technology focuses on reuse of clothes and other sports and leisure products, and the changing role for manufacturers and resellers in this industry and how the new sharing economy affects them. Professors Åsa Ericson and Thomas Zobel will investigate how companies can get an economy in and functional logistics for services such as mending and second-hand sale.

The project has three key elements: to highlight the consequences of an exchange market for sports and leisure products, to concretize proposals for actions, and to develop learning and reflective business logic based on digital service innovation.

– Companies need more knowledge about digital service innovation and how they can change their information systems so that use and reuse are becoming more central in their business models. We start with the producers, so they can influence consumers. It's about changing mindset and behavior and that is a challenge, says Åsa Ericson, professor in information systems at Luleå University of Technology.

A recycled garment was named Christmas gift of the year in Sweden. According to retail organization HUI Research "the recycled garment reflects the Swedish interest for new sustainable alternatives and increasing concerns about climate and environment. The recycled garment captures a time where new business models and technological innovations enable a more sustainable consumption."

Environmental impacts of consumption

PRINCE, commissioned by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, is a new projcet for monitoring the environmental impacts linked to Swedish consumption. According to a report from PRINCE, 80% of the emissions of hazardous chemicals and 65% of greenhouse gas emissions associated with Swedish consumption occur abroad.

– We know that production and consumption always affect the environment, but we still lack practical knowledge about they can co-exist and how sustainable value chains can be created, says Thomas Zobel, professor in quality technology and management at Luleå University of Technology.

He adds:

– Our project is about changing business models and making them more sustainable. It is crucial that sustainability issues are seriously integrated into what creates value for the company.

In the new project, Luleå University of Technology's researchers collaborate with Swedish outdoor company Houdini Sportswear.

– It is a dream partner to bring along; a company in the forefront when it comes to sustainability. Houdini is the first company to analyze operations from a planetary boundaries perspective, says Thomas Zobel.

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