The business model that will make society more sustainable

​Mats Williander at Viktoria Swedish ICT and the Center for Business Innovation (CBI) at Chalmers has been carrying on a project for several years related to how companies within the manufacturing industry should go about changing their business models so that they become more sustainable. Mats and his colleagues are working with circular business models, and currently they are collaborating with Volvo Cars, Volvo Construction Equipment and SKF. Mats joined us for an interview to talk about what is happening in the project.

Hi, Mats! What is the project about? 
Overall it is about the transition of the manufacturing industry to more circular business models, which means that from the outset, products are designed so that they can be recycled and reproduced. The project consists of two parts: in one part we adapt a method for business model innovation with focus on customer development to fit large industrial companies and product service systems. In the other part we look at the organisational prerequisites that would enable companies to produce and offer product- service- systems (PSS). The project is funded by the Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems (VINNOVA).

What’s happening in the project right now?
 Right now Volvo Cars’ Accessories department is developing a new business model and simultaneously jointly with us testing in practice the method for business model innovation.. We also are planning a study and analysis of Volvo Construction Equipment concerning tehir potential for introducing alternative (more sustainable) business models into the operation. At SKF we are analysing the results of a number of interviews that we’ve carried out within part of the company about its Beyond Zero portfolio.

Who is working on the project?
 I and my colleagues Thomas Nyström and Marcus Linder at Viktoria Swedish ICT. Marcus and I are part of the Center for Business Innovation at Chalmers as well, and there Center Director Sofia Börjesson also takes part in the project.

In what way do you hope the research results will affect society?
 This is an important piece in the accumulation of knowledge about how companies can shift to radically more sustainable business models which in turn is an important part of the circular economy. The EU and others are to a larger extent emphasising this and a growing numbers of companies are becoming increasingly interested in these issues. So this type of research is urgently needed to enable society to move towards a circular economy, and of course we hope that the participating companies in particular will proceed well along the road!

What are the greatest challenges for getting there?
 The many organisational dependencies within a company and also those among companies in the value chain make such an adjustment in business a very great and complex challenge. But by identifying the most difficult obstacles, raising consciousness of them in the companies and in addition finding ways to tear them down or get around them, a lot is gained.

You have recently been active in a couple of discussions in the media. Has this affected the work?
 Yes, very positively! It has resulted in several invitations to speak at conferences. Companies have been in touch and want to learn more and want to carry out projects that involve circular business models. Since then we have received many job applications – obviously, there is great interest in being included and creating a more ecological sustainable business world and society.

Text and photo: Caroline Örmgård

Page manager Published: Wed 26 Nov 2014.