Minimising rebound effects of lifetime extension: Sustainable business models for mobile, internet-enabled devices

Main Presenter: René Itten 

Co-Authors: Marleen Jattke Matthias Stucki

The environmental impact of laptops, tablets and smartphones summarised as mobile internet-enabled devices (MIEDs) is highly relevant and increasing. The global market penetration of smartphones reached about 50 % in 2021 with 3.6 billion reported smartphone users in the year 2020. The environmental impact of MIEDs is dominated by the production phase with a relevant but significantly lower contribution of the use phase. For this reason, extending the service lifetime of MIEDs and thereby decreasing the number of devices produced is a promising strategy to reduce their ecological footprint. However, extending the service lifetime of MIEDs can also cause rebound effects that can partly compensate the saved environmental impacts due to lifetime extension.

In our project, we systematically analyse direct and indirect environmental implications of interventions to extend the service lifetime of MIEDs and their underlying business models. We quantify the direct reduction of the environmental impact due to an increased service lifetime of MIEDs as well as potential rebound effects caused by induction, imperfect substitution as well as re-spending for a set of 9 different interventions including subscription based discounts, advanced repair fees, re-selling services and repair services. We apply a comprehensive set of environmental indicators including greenhouse gas emissions, mineral resource use, primary energy demand, particulate matter, and others.

This systematic assessment of the environmental implications of interventions allows to identify the interventions that have the highest potential to reduce environmental impacts and to identify measures to minimize rebound effects. With this analysis, business models can be developed that promote a more sustainable use of MIEDs.

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