An Investigation into the Social and Cultural Dynamics that Shape Product Service Systems Consumption

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


Improved resource efficiency and extended product life cycles are strategies prioritized by policy makers to achieve sustainable production and consumption. Literature suggests that Product Service Systems (PSS), competitive systems of products, services, supporting networks and infrastructure designed to satisfy demand using fewer resources than traditional business models can deliver these strategies. Whilst PSS’ resource efficiency potential has been questioned, PSS may still help society move toward more sustainable futures. Indeed, PSS have been linked to the concept of circular economy in which resources are reused, recovered and regenerated to minimise environmental impact of consumption.
Yet PSS have not been widely taken up in consumer markets and consequently their potential to address sustainability challenges has not been realised. In response, this thesis investigates the social and cultural dynamics that shape PSS consumption. Two case studies are presented that draw upon Consumer Culture Theory (CCT) and Practice theory (PT) in pluralistic fashion and experts engaged to find ways to generate a dialogue and insights from these two perspectives. A flexible research design was followed with data collected by semi-structured interviews with consumers and experts. Data were analysed using a dynamic template approach.
The findings suggest that some consumers are encouraged to consume PSS as a way to construct identities expressing meanings and ideologies such as altruism and environmental protection. Consumers need, however, to learn access practices to consume PSS offerings. Furthermore, social- structural elements of living such as social conventions and the physical distribution of sites where consumers work and live prevent them from consuming PSS recurrently. Further research is needed to investigate how PSS consumption inspired by consumers’ meanings and ideologies may be collective, recurring and integrated within the social structural aspects of living.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The Open University
  • Cook, Matthew, Supervisor, External person
  • Potter, Stephen, Supervisor, External person
Thesis sponsors
Award date27 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jun 2019


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