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Webinar: The role of consumers in product repairability

  • Published on October 14, 2021

This webinar discussed consumers' expectations about product lifetimes and attitudes toward product lifetime extension practices, in particular the perception of consumers of repairability and repaired products.

In a society of mass consumption, where everything prompts us to constantly create new needs and throw away the products that we use at the first failure (sometimes even before!), it is urgent to change this paradigm and move towards sustainable production and consumption models. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Akatu Institute, with the support from the French Ministry for Ecological Transition, organised the Webinar “The role of consumers in product repairability” on October 13.

The session was organized within the framework of the Working group on Product Lifetime Extension of the One Planet Network Consumer Information Programme. Barriers toward repair in developing and developed countries were explored, as well as the role of businesses and initiatives that aim to encourage self-repair. Speakers from academia, private sector, civil society, and consumer association shared their perspectives on the role of consumers in product repairability in different sectors and local contexts.


Main challenges consumers face that prevent them from using products longer

The main challenges mentioned by speakers included the cultural norm that stimulates people to buy new products and the fact that replacement of products is easy, as there is a diverse range of virtual and physical alternatives where the consumer can acquire a new product. To change this mindset, we need more trending cultural influencers to advocate for repairability. In addition, there is a need to provide more convenient and efficient repair services, with pick up options and fast services, to fit in modern lifestyle.


Barriers stakeholders should overcome if they want to encourage repair and engage the consumer

Companies should offer spare parts, tools for repair and easy access to manual for the regular user. Repairing often can bring a frustration to the consumer because it takes time, and the result is not always successful. To overcome this challenge and engage the consumer, it is important to build communities and networks, to share frustrations and successes, and learn from each other. Another important point discussed was that repair trade changes with time. When we extend the lifetime of product, sometimes spare parts and repair services are no longer available.


Initiatives companies should develop to help consumers extend the lifetime of products

First, they should design for repair, developing products that are easy to repair and that are perceived as being repairable. It is important to help the consumer identify that the product can be fixed, with parts that can be disassembled. It is also important to train professionals to execute the service, maintaining product quality. Companies can also develop standards for products. If the same component or tool can be used to repair a diverse range of products, then it becomes easier to guarantee the availability of a reduced number of parts.

Governments also have an important role. For example, they should implement legislations to guarantee that a product is only imported when the country has the capacity to repair it.   




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