From products to public services

May 16, 2011 at 9:19 am 7 comments

In the future, perhaps driving and heating will be public services.  I have written in the past about the trend that is seeing products turn into services.  People are hiring or borrowing bikes, cars and tools in ways they didn’t before.  Now I have a sense of the two forces behind this trend:

1) Economics.  In the past, the progressive compromise was to let capitalism get on with it and to re-distribute income.  As the wealth distribution reaches Victorian levels of awfulness, there is a strengthening view that this is insufficient.  Both Maurice Glasman and Phillip Blond have argued that the state should redistribute capital and not just cash, ‘capitalising the poor’.

2) Ecology.  As we develop the green technologies that can avert climate catastrophe, we will habitually use equipment that is cheaper to run but more expensive to purchase.  Green boilers and cars will generate lower bills but higher prices.  At our Climate Change Dialogue last week, it was powerfully argued that one important green innovation priority relates to the business models that can make this work.  We need companies that can help people adapt to leasing solar panels and cars to help us transition to this new world.

We should not run together issues of justice and the environment too readily – too often, ideological aspiration is framed as planetary necessity.  At the same time, to renew themselves, progressives must be acutely sensitive to strategies that can help both the planet and disadvantaged people.

By John Craig

Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Keri Facer’s thought-provoking piece in the TES Thinking about Matthew Syed and the ‘Talent Myth’: maybe we should stop looking for the truth, and decide what it’s most helpful to believe

7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. alecpatton  |  May 16, 2011 at 10:55 am

    too often, ideological aspiration is framed as planetary necessity.

    The flip side of this is that the world’s poor already bear the brunt of pollution, or as Van Jones put it in his TedTalk, ‘you can’t trash the planet without trashing people’

  • 2. robbie craig  |  May 19, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    Point 2 needs further thought. The old technologies may not be cheaper to run but there is ‘lock in’ in terms of the choices and habits people have, because they are familliar with that way of doing things.

    Business has the capacity to change the delivery landscape and present new ways of delivering those services/goods that will lead to behaviour change.

    Government support may be neccessary tho’ because of the percieved risks businesses face in delivering the new service – green tech often relies on regulation phasing out or limiting the use of older tech or the creating of a new societal dyanmic (I mean fashion or mindset).

  • 3. John Craig  |  May 20, 2011 at 10:07 am

    Thanks, Robbie – completely agree with all of that. Don’t at all mean that Government doesn’t have a huge role to play.

  • 4. Warren Hatter  |  May 23, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    Good stuff, John. I’ve spun a few thoughts of mine off of this blog on Amplify (here: Here’s a condensed version:

    I agree with the points about changing the ways in which we use products and services. I’d add that some of this is happening anyway driven partly by economic necessity (people joining car clubs rather than owning a car, for example) as well as values linked to sustainability and carbon.

    However, I disagree with the final point about “not linking justice and the environment too readily”. The most economically vulnerable (whether you look at this regionally, nationally or globally) are – simply due to their location, before you even consider the resources at their disposal – most vulnerable to the impacts of environmental degradation. Just consider flood risk, for example. So my view is that equity and social justice is inextricably linked with climate change – both mitigation and adaptation.

  • 5. John Craig  |  May 23, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    Thanks, Warren – really appreciate you picking this up and your comments. On the social justice and climate change issue, I personally absolutely agree with you. However, my point is that its generally poor political tactics to assert such significant arguments as simply a function of logic (rather than, say, experience or values). Those kinds of arguments work great with people who already agree with you, but they don’t work well with the waverers, becase they imply they are being ‘illogical’ or dumb. So, I think we agree on the principle – it’s just the speech-writer in me thinking about the rhetoric…

  • 6. Warren Hatter  |  May 23, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    You’re right, we agree. In this case, though, it’s probably a bit of an aunt sally.

    There’s plenty of motivation (both real and rhetoricall) for the sort of approaches you’re flagging up that shouldn’t sound remotely ideological – fuel insecurity and food insecurity (coupled with rising costs) for example.

  • 7. John Craig  |  May 23, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    Agree! 🙂


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