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Digital For Good: How do we innovate for a more sustainable economy tomorrow?

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Publicis Sapient has chosen Parisian incubator Station F to host the first meeting of its digital club. For goodness sake, a space for discussion on the topics of digital sobriety and digital impact. The first roundtable on December 2 focused on the place of technology and innovation in the sustainable transformation of our consumption habits, with Back Market and Sline in attendance.

Our economic model cannot be made more sustainable without the general mobilization of all links in the chain. This was essential was the subject of a roundtable discussion on December 2, organized by Publicis Sabanet at Station F (Paris). Anaïs Desmoulins, CEO of Sline and Benjamin Glenzer, Managing Director of Back Market for Business, were invited to explore ways to adopt a more efficient production model, using innovation, circularity and ecological design.

Innovation as a cure?

“To date, digital technology generates 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions,” says Lise Malbernard, Managing Director of Publicis Sapient France, in the introduction. So it is part of the problem and part of the solution. In addition, aligning digital transformation with sustainable goals, according to her, is definitely synonymous with economic performance.

René Thomas Nilsson, Customer Experience and Innovation at Publicis Sapient and responsible for leading this roundtable, shares the same opinion. This need for companies to incorporate sustainable goals into their economic development is no longer a simple legal obligation but “a demand from customers and employees but increasingly also from shareholders”. The question is no longer “how but when” to deal with these issues head-on.

“The goal of innovation is to generate growth and strive to create more impact, and it is at this level that a contradiction can arise.” Since infinite growth in a limited world is obviously not possible, it is about using innovation to explore new ways, and strive for new economic models based on roundness, cooperation and use.

Giving a second life to the economy of use

Then it was Anais Desmoulins’ turn to speak. The latter is at the helm of the rising startup Sline, which supports merchants in launching a rental offer on their websites or points of sale and thus in diversifying their activity. According to her, there would be no “second life to the economy of use without the links of renovators and recyclers”. She points out the difficulty retailers have in offering used or second-hand equipment themselves.

According to her, the Second Life market for baby care began to emerge precisely because repairmen became interested in products in this segment such as strollers. “Structuring the sector is key for the economy of use to become a standard in retail,” she explains.

Anaïs Desmoulins, CEO of Sline and Benjamin Glenzer, Managing Director of Back Market for Business.

The emergence of economy of use requires better optimization of product quality and durability according to the uses and available resources. Here, data is also presented as an essential link to better consumer knowledge but also the intensity of its use. In combination with data on product hardness, this data in particular can make it possible to predict the end of a product’s life to predict when it will be necessary to propose another product.

“You have to be able to question your production model and accept that ROI (note: return on investment) is not set in just 12 months but after that,” says Anaïs Desmoulins. Take the example of Morning, a client supported by Sline in the Furniture Rental Department. Investment in this direction is shown here as “current expenditures incorporated into operating expenses (note: current expenditures)”. It is no longer about equipment frozen in time that was purchased under capital expenditures (note: long-term expenditures).

There is no new economy without mass adoption

If the adoption of the Second Life market is increasingly being felt among the public – especially among young people – it is not necessarily the same on the business side. For Benjamin Glaenzer, who has been in charge of launching BackMarket’s B2B offering since the end of November, the challenge remains “to educate professionals, especially with regard to their diligence on the reliability and quality of our refurbished products.” The latter considers the most important thing to be “able to provide the same level of service as in the new”. In particular, this includes the fact that a replacement product is offered while waiting for the defective product to be repaired.

However, it should be clearly noted that the renewed cycle is part of a longer cycle and the offer cannot include the latest products. For Benjamin, the challenge is better defining the enterprise uses: “Some of our computers may not be suitable for some IT developers,” he explains. “But they can be more than enough for office automation.”

The latter regrets that today electronics still consist of 98% new and 2% used. “Buying a refurbished smartphone means avoiding almost 80 kg of carbon emissions, or a car trip between Paris and Nantes,” he concludes. In 2021, 40% of French people asked themselves the question of repairing their products before buying new ones. There is no doubt that the inflationary context eroding the purchasing power of the French helps reinforce this trend.

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