Subscribing on technology

Berlin, Germany

SDG 12: Responsible consumption and production
Mainstreaming circular approaches and business models into the German society at large, supported by national legislation, have made evident the financial and environmental benefits and opportunities offered by circularity. A rise of green and circular start-ups has named Berlin ‘the circular economy innovation hub of Europe’18 . Grover is one of the more well-known start-ups in Berlin that offer “pay-as-you-go” subscriptions to the latest consumer tech as an alternative to owning products. Through their service, consumers are able to subscribe products, such as laptops or phones. The service offers consumers “good as new” products for a monthly fee, and if a product is damaged or if the consumer needs to change it to a different one, Grover replaces it. This way, the need for consuming new products is reduced. By offering a subscription-based service to consumers, Grover is developing the rental-based economy in Germany offering their customers tech-products by monthly, quarterly or yearly subscription. Germany is, according to Politico´s Circular Economy Index, outperforming other European countries in terms of circular economy practices, holding an estimated 1260 patents that have to do with sustainable products, processes and services. This is a lot more than any other country in the top five list of European countries. The Circular Economy Index takes into account seven key metrics: annual municipal waste per person; municipal recycling rate; trade of recyclable raw materials; material reuse rate; investments in circular economy sectors; circular economy patents; and annual food waste per person. 

The EU generates almost three billion tonnes of waste annually, of which 90 million tonnes are hazardous waste. A societal shift from ownership of goods to shared access of goods is necessary in order to move away from a traditional take-make-waste economy and instead towards a system that balances our resources and the environment. Producers are driven by economic incentives and getting consumers to purchase the latest products is argued necessary for continued economic growth. This model ultimately ensures that products are developed not to last. A rental economy where products are designed to be rented, rather than sold, would rather provide producers with incentives to develop repairable products with a longer lifespan that could be used by multiple users. A rental-based economy would therefore reduce the need to buy single-use products, thus reducing the demand and production.

Good practices and solutions

Working in cooperation with Europe’s largest electronics retailers, Grover has grown to be a leading player in the consumer electronics market by redefining the ways in which consumers relate to products which maximises usage and minimises waste. Grover’s subscribers gain access to consumer electronics on a monthly basis and return items when they are no longer needed. Examples include smartphones, laptops, cameras, wearables and smart home appliances.

Outcomes & Opportunities

Through their platform, Grover is able to increase asset utilization and enable products to be cascaded through multiple user cycles. Products are rented in good conditions and returned products are serviced, cleaned and repaired, before a new customer request it. This way, each product has a longer life-cycle than it would if purchased as new.

Related SDG targets


Photo: © Ilya Ilford/Unsplash

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Project: Circular Baltic 2030