Long-lasting products are a must if we are to achieve sustainable production and consumption. To encourage companies and guide consumers, RISE is developing the Certified to LAST concept, a way of rewarding products with long service life.
– “It can reduce and slow down material flows in society,” says Raul Carlsson, researcher at RISE.
There are a number of different labels for products in the marketplace. Despite this, there is one area where the consumer often gropes blindly – namely product service life and how this generally affects the environment. At the same time, it is often difficult for companies that have invested in developing products with long service lives to reach out with this information in a credible manner.
RISE now wants to facilitate and quality assure communications between companies and consumers by developing a certification and labelling concept called LAST, where the four letters stand for Long-life design, Accessible spare parts, Sustainable materials and Transparency.
– “It has sprung from a frustration that I think all of us consumers can relate to. You have a product that works and then something small breaks and the entire function is lost even though it should be possible to fix quite easily,” says RISE project manager Karolina Vikingsson, and provides as examples products with non-replaceable batteries or products for which no spare parts are available.
With the LAST certification, consumers can see if a product has a long service life, and whether the manufacturer has taken responsibility for it in various ways.
– “It’s based on the manufacturer in some way stating how long a product will last, and then making sure that it does so, either because it doesn’t break in the first place or because it’s, for example, easy to repair and upgrade,” says Raul Carlsson.
The products that attain certification are marked with a QR code where the consumer can easily get information about, for example, care, spare parts and content. With the QR code, service to customers can be improved and the idea is that it will also provide important information to those who repair, remanufacture or recycle the products.
– “Everyone expects a more digital relationship with customers and distribution chains. As an example, much of the software in products is already built for this,” says Raul Carlsson.
LAST certification is not intended to replace current markings and other certifications. Instead, RISE wants to develop a certification that utilises existing standards and requirements, but which overall requires more.
– “LAST focuses on longevity but not at the expense of other important sustainability requirements,” says Karolina Vikingsson.
The hope is that LAST will provide guidance to consumers and give companies that invest in products with a long service life an opportunity to stand out.
– “Many companies work hard to put solid products on the market; they want their products to last and they want to be responsible. LOAD can be a way for them to be able to show this,” says Karolina Vikingsson.
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RISE is developing the concept together with the International Environmental Institute at Lund University and six companies with global brands in various product segments. Companies have shown active interest in circularity and contributed knowledge about their products and their value chains. The participating companies include Nudie Jeans, Moccamaster Nordic, Tarkett, Husqvarna and Zound Industries.
– “At Zound, we’re seeing rapidly growing interest from consumers and other stakeholders for repair, reuse and recycling,” says Anna Forsgren, sustainability specialist at Zound Industries. “We must act on this to ensure a sustainable future and to tackle the fundamental problems of today's linear business operations. Standardisation of how to measure service life in products is an important next step.”
The partner companies do not set the level of certification, but instead provide RISE with information about products, conditions and processes.
– “It’s not good for us making demands that no one can meet. But we want to tighten the requirements in step with development” says Raul Carlsson.
Much of the work is now about defining the lifespan of different product types, such as coffee brewers, speakers, clothing and flooring. In the process, both the strengths and weaknesses of individual products are identified.
– “We hope that the measures we’re already taking can be recognised and that we can see more clearly the areas in which we need to improve,” says Sandya Lang, head of sustainability at Nudie Jeans. “We believe that a concept such as Certified to LAST can set the standard in many industries in the future for a circular economy.”
Companies and others who are interested or want to contribute to the work with Certified to LAST are encouraged to get in touch.
– “In addition, RISE already offers a number of methods, approaches and measurement tools that can help companies give their products longer service lives,” says Raul Carlsson.
Much of what RISE works with is about supporting companies and others in society in the transition from linear to circular.
– “We need a change in our behaviour in relation to materials, products and resources in order to take us towards increased climate conservation,” concludes Raul Carlsson.