The subscription, a business model for a more sustainable world?

While companies have long dragged their feet on the environment, some have increasingly radical goals. Witness the initiatives of the GAFAMs, which one after the other reduce or even eliminate their CO2 footprint in 2030 to 2040. If this seems daunting from an economic point of view, on the contrary, the GAFAMs seem to think that this will them opportunity to gain profitability. But why and how have attitudes changed so much in terms of ecology?

Data centers are now the cornerstone of our digital system. It is physical locations that bring together all the facilities (servers, storage sites, etc.) in which all our data is stored and processed. These have continued to multiply in recent years to meet the exponential needs of an increasingly connected world. However, they are energy sinkholes. For example, GAFAM’s total electricity consumption in 2017 was similar to that of New Zealand. Faced with this observation and to meet the growing demand of consumers, the GAFAMs have taken radical views on their CO2 footprint, although the environment is often seen as a cost.

Google has promised to run all of its data centers with carbon-free electricity by 2030. By 2020, Facebook reduced its CO2 emissions by 59% compared to 2017, and 86% of its activities – data centers and office activities – are supported by renewable energy sources. Apple is now powered solely by renewable energy and has promised to be CO2 neutral by 2030. Amazon promises net zero emissions by 2040. And Microsoft plans to be CO2 negative by 2040. by 2030, which means it will remove more carbon dioxide from air than it will produce.

But in the face of all these initiatives, no one suspects them of having given up the goal of maximizing profits, on the contrary. Apple, for example, exceeded $ 100 billion in quarterly revenue for the first time in 2020. However, the latter seem to find it more economically efficient to run on green energy, and the fact that they have to bear the cost of these infrastructures has something to do with it. to do with it – the price of fossil fuels is inevitably destined to rise.

The subscription business model generates environmental virtue

Behind this seemingly harmless update, there has been a radical change in the business model of large companies in recent years: They are gradually moving from status as product sellers to service providers around an application. Apple and Google thus provide a cloud hosting service and therefore support the maintenance of the servers, which are no longer with their customers. These companies now have to bear the cost of ownership and therefore the sustainability of their products is in their financial interest. Why resort to planned obsolescence if you own your smartphone? With this in mind, the French company Denkii offers all types of electrical appliances for rent (game console, connected clock, hair dryer, etc.). The company takes care of the repair of each device, allows the user to enjoy a device without owning it and thus promotes the sharing economy, while at its own scale contributing to the reduction of waste.

Furthermore, the economy of use also creates an environmental virtue on the part of the consumer: he avoids over-consumption and the waste that is in his possession. Thus, initiatives are developed in all activity sectors. In ready-to-wear, for example, brands like Le Closet allow you to subscribe to boxes to renew your wardrobe daily. The goal is to reduce your consumption of clothing and thus textile waste, which, let us remember, is the second leading cause of pollution in the world after oil. Finally, customer satisfaction increases because the use he makes of the product, per. definition corresponds to his needs. It is by following this principle that the hiking brand Quechua has launched a new service: rental of camping equipment. The goal ? Facilitate the discovery of practice without having to invest, while limiting production and thus waste of equipment.

The common point of all these companies is that it is no longer the customer who owns the product, but the company. The latter therefore has every possible interest in offering quality products and keeping them in good condition, to ensure regular rental or subscription income and to create and maintain a relationship of trust with the customer. A first lesson seems to emerge: We do not know if sustainable development has a business model, but if it does, it is likely to be the subscription model.

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