How long should things last? Implications of product durability

Hugh Cameron

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


Abstract: The durability of manufactured artefacts is a design choice for businesses. It has profound consequences for society, affecting sustainability capacity and the decisions of consumers over much of their spending in affluent societies. It shapes a large proportion of aggregate demand in developed economies, and provides an incentive for firms to innovate. It also determines recycling and waste disposal requirements. This paper reviews the factors which influence durability decisions and the implications of extending the lifetime of products. In particular, it reflects on the implications for products experiencing continuous innovation, and for the flexibility of economies in response to urgent policy needs. Durability is becoming prominent in sustainability debates, but is a complex subject with some counterintuitive aspects. Though it is a strategic issue for R&D managers and a design issue for engineers and designers, their technical choices are not independent of commercial factors, in particular the maturity of products, expected trajectories of innovation and business models such as methods of service provision and payment. The movements away from outright purchase and towards payment for service flows, and the possibilities for 'sharing' durables offered by the new IT and communications technologies, provides a new environment in which durability offers a new strategic choice for businesses as well as opportunities for assisting sustainability.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationhost publication
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jun 2015
EventR&D Management Conference - Istituto di Management, Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, Pisa, Italy
Duration: 24 Jun 201526 Jun 2015


ConferenceR&D Management Conference


  • Product durability, design, sustainability, economic theory, strategic management, planned obsolescence, leasing, obsolescence, servitization, transitions to sustainability, maintenance, upgradability, modularity, product life cycle, discount rates, service life, networks, replacement decisions, purchase decisions, innovation, transitional inertia, system inetria, boilers, diesel, replacement


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