Apparently Crocs are in trouble and one of the reasons, according to this Washington Post article is “the problem with a nearly indestructible product is that shoppers rarely need to replace it”. Whatever your views on the fashion component of Crocs, this is bad news for business sustainability and a win for the built in obsolescence argument.
We need new models for business success that allow long lasting products to be successful (maybe with some assurance that they are ultimately bio-degradable). Perhaps it comes with making money from such things as reconditioning and refurbishing, upgrading and servicing. Of course we have to shift consumer preferences too so they don’t want new stuff all the time.
That got me to thinking about what models there might be for sustainable materials and I think fur fits the bill .
If you are reacting with horror to my statement that fur might be an example of a sustainable material let me ask you to put aside the issues of animal rights and sustainable farming/hunting and just look for a minute at the material itself to help me illustrate my point.
In the interests of full disclosure, my father, now retired, was a furrier in an earlier part of his career (hi Dad!).
Growing up I would spend time in the fur workshop. Customers would bring the product back for refurbishing and redesign, retaining the original material. A five year old coat would be brought into the workshop and my grandfather would spend a week dismantling it and recreating it into the latest design. At the time, the fabric was so valuable, relative to the cost of my grandfather’s labor, that this model made business sense.
The key characteristics here are a material that is valuable and long lasting, where the labor cost of reworking it into a new design is less than the cost of starting again with new material.
I wonder though, whether things are going to have to get a lot worse with regards scarcity of raw materials before we reach that crossover point for the more mundane raw materials that go into the products we use every day. Or is there a way we can create business models with those drivers now before we are forced down that road by adverse circumstances?