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Business-driven solutions to transforming consumption

Laura Gherasim
Mar 8, 2024

Our current patterns of consumption are deeply inequitable, leaving many without having their basic needs met, while overconsumption threatens our health and produces mountains of waste. New models of consumption could create an estimated £3.5 trillion in business value across the sharing economy, circularity and dematerialisation, but these are yet to scale. So why haven’t innovative business models been mainstreamed?

Our response 

Capgemini and Forum for the Future hosted a breakfast roundtable with sustainability practitioners and innovators from across the retail and consumer goods sectors.

We validated that great ideas to change business models to become more resource-efficient already exist. These ideas include dematerialisation, digitisation, peer-to-peer, made-to-order, repair and maintain and product as a service to name a few.

This was followed by an agreement among attendees that for any shift in business models or consumer behaviours towards sustainability to be successful, it would also need to be desirable and equitable. Lastly, we explored the business opportunities to help solve these problems.

What did we learn?

​​Several consumer goods ​businesses have made ambitious commitments to resource-efficient business models. While there is lots of experimentation and learning happening in the sector, the path to scale is yet to be unlocked. This requires a shift of the entire system that goes way beyond the business model transformation some are driving.   

This requires reworking on both the supply and demand sides. The interconnectedness of supply and demand is key and articulating the value of resource-efficient business models in the short, medium, and long term is a critical unlock. 

At the same time, consumers shifting their behaviour is critical and is also challenging for some businesses to measure. Beyond completely adapting their positions to translate resource efficiency into commercially viable models and innovation concepts, brands now need to make the change accessible and engaging to the end user.

“Articulating the value of resource-efficient business models in the short, medium, and long term is a critical unlock.” 

Business-driven solutions to shifting consumption   

For consumer products and retail organisations to unlock a new consumption reality, they need to shape a path to scale for resource-efficient models by ensuring economic viability, a new cultural narrative, and sustainable choices.

To delve into some of the nuances of making this happen, change leaders need to take a systemic view, both when designing their resource-efficient solution and delivering the change roadmap.

A new consumption narrative is needed,​​where different lifestyles and values coexist enabling people to embrace a new consumption reality. Brands such as Patagonia are showing us how such cultural shifts are possible and storytelling is key. Sustainable choices can only be achieved through normalising behaviours and enabling the mindset shift that leads to change.

One useful technique is to identify ‘leverage points’ when people are more open to a shift, such as the one experienced during the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Trying to tell stories people do not want to hear is of course a waste of time, so choosing moments when people are receptive and open to thinking differently is key.

Systems thinking alone is not an inspiring story. Stories need to have a villain and a satisfying conclusion, which might be a relatable benefit such as improved health. Lastly, stories need to centre on people and solutions. These days, people are atomised and crave connection. This provides an opportunity to connect people through new models and dialogues around reselling, repairing, tailoring, modifying clothes, or reusing in such a way that people see themselves as part of the collective solution and want to engage in dialogue.

Though our sustainable innovation practice we learnt the value of experimentation in bringing new consumption models to market, demonstrating the art of the possible by engaging the full ecosystem rather than just what is under the control of the business.

Cross-sector collaboration is key in running these large-scale demonstration projects, where partners explore solutions, create a wider more robust understanding of the business case, and identify levers to change such as new technologies or joint marketing to enable scale.​​ One example is the technology platform DXM, invested in by Carhartt and Shahi among others.  The platform pairs its “digital tailor” 3D modelling of people’s dimensions with their material and style choices with local manufacturers, thereby reducing material, transport, and stock waste and offering the exact product, fit, and potential price desired.

To bring these to life, we learnt that finding a laser focus (for example, with certain material flows like plastic), leveraging innovative financing structures, embracing new valuation tools, accounting for externalities as part of the business case or embracing new valuation tools are key to help build a viable business case at an organisational level.

Lastly, to enable scale, the entire business needs to be on board.At a very practical level, internal teams need to go on the journey of building the foundation to make the right decisions, gain the courage to grab the opportunity of setting the course for this agenda, and finally, take responsibility for their role in driving change. This calls for an evolution in skills, both soft and hard, as well as building an internal innovation-driven culture that champions a regenerative purpose and social equity across the entire business.

Be part of the conversation and make a difference 

Join like-minded professionals from across the consumer products and apparel sectors, on 20 March to explore the importance of Climate Adaptation. 

Learn more and register your interest here.  

Meet our expert

Laura Gherasim

Director, Sustainable Futures, Capgemini Invent
Laura is a corporate sustainability expert with experience of working for FTSE 100 companies, focussing on developing and scaling viable impact driven solutions at a global level. Laura has a track record of unlocking social and environmental outcomes, business growth and profitability through positive impact strategies, disruptive innovation and new business models. Laura has also worked internationally, leading interdisciplinary teams, working with NGOs and managing relationships with external partners.