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Waste Prevention in a "Leasing Society"

Susanne Fischer, Meghan O’Brien, Henning Wilts, Sören Steger, Philipp Schepelmann, Nino David Jordan and Bettina Rademacher

A future-oriented and sustainable “Leasing Society” is based on a combination of new and innovative service oriented business models, changed product and material ownership structures, increased and improved eco-design efforts, and reverse logistic structures. Together these elements have the potential to change the relationship between producers and consumers, and thereby create a new incentive structure in the economy regarding the use and re-use of resources. While the consumer in a leasing society buys a service (instead of a product), the producer in a leasing society retains the ownership of the product (instead of selling it) and sells the service of using the product. This creates producer incentives to re-use, remanufacture, and recycle products and materials and could become a cornerstone of the circular economy, depending on how the leasing society is implemented. While a predominantly positive picture of the success of a leasing society model and related business cases emerges from the bigger part of the available literature, this paper argues that the resource efficiency of respective business cases is highly dependent on the specific business case design. This paper develops a more cautious and differentiated definition of the leasing society by discussing relevant mechanisms and success factors of leasing society business cases. The leasing society is discussed from a micro business-oriented and a macro environment-oriented perspective complemented by a discussion of conditions for successful business models that reduce environmental impacts and resource footprints.