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SPREE presents research findings to support move towards ‘servicizing systems’

At the SPREE project final conference earlier this month, the team presented its findings on how we can support the emergence of ‘servicizing systems’ to facilitate the transition from selling products to providing services.

You may never have heard of the term ‘servicizing’ but you could already be a part of the movement. Have you ever used a bike or car renting or sharing scheme? If yes, then you are playing a small role in the servicizing of our systems. ‘Servicizing’ describes the movement from consuming products to consuming services, and the SPREE (Servicizing Policy for Resource Efficient Economy) team has been working for the past three years to explore how we can support the emergence of ‘servicizing systems’ which facilitate this transition. The ‘servicizing’ concept is seen as one answer to the sustainability conundrum: How do we reduce environmental impacts and resource use while maintaining economic activity and prosperity? One of the key aims of servicizing is to achieve decoupling whereby we can have economic growth with less social and environmental impact. Speaking at the SPREE final conference in Brussels earlier this month, Dr. Vered Blass from Tel-Aviv University elaborated on the motivation behind the project, ‘There was lots of talk about product service systems and its potential benefits in the early 2000s however it still hasn’t been implemented on large scale. Businesses and consumers play critical role in the transition. We wanted to find out what the barriers are.’ Taking three sectors – agri-food, mobility and water – the SPREE team tested whether servicizing can bring us closer to decoupling and which policy packages are needed to get there. To build the policy packages, research teams from the Lithuania, the UK, Finland, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands and Israel engaged consumers (city drivers and household water users) and business users (farmers) in consumer and business surveys. For example, in the water sector, the research teams tested consumers’ appetite for grey-water recycling (GWR) and rainwater harvesting (RWH) in the very different environments of Spain, the UK and Israel. The results point to different environmental and policy contexts: in the south of the UK where water shortage has not been a dominant issue, only 10 to 13 % of respondents said they would definitely or probably consider installing one of the systems, whereas in Israel, where awareness of water shortage is very high, 65 % of respondents said they would definitely or probably consider the GWR system. Household surveys like these were complemented by qualitative research including expert interviews, focus groups, interactive workshops and meetings with policymakers. An agent-based model approach was then used to assess decoupling, and all of the findings were brought together to develop policy packages for the water, mobility and agri-food sectors. The importance of tailoring these policy packages to local conditions was underlined by Eugenijus Butkus, SPREE project’s coordinator from the Research Council of Lithuania at the conference. Context-specific policy packages also must go through an evolution from ‘basic’ to ‘effective’ to ‘viable’ in consultation with policymakers and experts. Closing the conference, Butkus offered some key ‘take aways’ from the project: ‘Servicizing does have the potential to help achieve decoupling and contribute to circular economy (but it is case specific and can’t be automatically multiplied). And we have proven that our approach works, however, further work is needed in terms of research, application and demonstration.’ The servicizing policy packages are now available on the project website. For further information, please visit: SPREE