The Diffusion of Sustainable Product Service Systems: A systems perspective of e-bikes
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In recent years, the demand for e-bikes in the Netherlands has grown significantly and is expected to grow more. Subsequent waste streams are cause for concern. Sustainable Product Service System (S.PSS) are seen as an interesting solution to reduce resource consumption. Research has suggested that a S.PSS business model provides firms with a strong incentive to improve the environmental performance of their product offering. Despite the numerous benefits of S.PSS, S.PSS business models remain part of a niche market. This study therefore aimed to gain in-depth knowledge about the current drivers and barriers of the S.PSS diffusion process by taking the e-bike industry as a case study. This way, the theoretical discussion on S.PSS diffusion can be enriched by practical evidence, which can ultimately help industry actors with designing and implementing S.PSS. The following research questions are addressed: 1) What drivers and barriers exist within the supply chain to move to a S.PSS business model? and 2) How can the development and diffusion of Sustainable Product Service Systems (S.PSS) be stimulated within the business-to-consumer e-bike market? This study used the Multi-Level Perspective, a case study and 12 semi-structured interviews to approach these research questions from a systems perspective. Interviews were thematically analyzed and identified factors were then ranked by interviewees. The findings show that the diffusion of use-oriented S.PSS in the e-bike market from niches to mainstream markets still has a long way to go. Persistent resistance to change of incumbent actors within the value chain that are benefitted by the current system show little willingness for alternative business models. However, clear signs on the landscape level show that changes in consumer preferences and (inter)national policy are slowly pressuring the dominant sales model. Overcoming barriers on the niche level could further challenge incumbent actors. Using the identified drivers and barriers and the recommendations from this study could contribute to further diffusion of S.PSS, as well as facilitate firms with finding sustainable ways to do business. Future avenues for research point to amongst others a more critical analysis of drivers and barriers and the opportunities presented for S.PSS by the rise in demand for delivery services. The results of this study can be improved by gathering more empirical data and interviewing more actors, amongst others.