What’s so Sustainable about Services?
Carleton Christensen, a philosophy professor at the University of Sydney, explores some of the unspoken assumptions about sustainability, human rationality and the repercussions of shifting from a product to a service economy.
From the outset we are assuming that the shift from product to service involve an ethically motivated search for a way of living tolerably with a reduced level of convenience.
A service economy which attempted to replicate to any significant degree the convenience of product sale would not be significantly more sustainable than a product-oriented one. In fact, it might even be more unsustainable. The problem here is that services are not as neatly packageable, hence saleable as products. This is true even in the comparatively straightforward case of power tool use: buying the service of a power tool rather than the power tool itself requires far greater coordination between producer, distributor and consumer.
The emergence of the service system presupposes some modification of user expectations downwards… The problem of re-jigging expectations and preferences—of self-transformation—is a threat to the economic sustainability of services.