But there has been little innovation in designing products to last longer and resistance to efforts to make them more repairable, says Alex Lobos, a professor of industrial design at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York. “It could prevent them from keeping costs down and consumers switching products often,” he says.
Last year, President Biden signed an order that would require cell phone companies and technology companies to make their proprietary software, repair manuals, tools and other components available so that the products can be repaired by anyone.
“It’s a good step, but there needs to be a way to make devices truly repairable,” says Lobos. For example, most electronics and cell phones are made with glues and parts welded together for cost efficiency that are nearly impossible to disassemble. More sustainable design, he says, can only happen with legislation.
Skullcandy changed the design of its headphones for different reasons: sustainability and product differentiation. When Skullcandy founder Rick Alden started the company on a Park City chairlift two decades ago, his startup was an industry innovator, among the first to put two speakers in each headphone cup.
But today, Skullcandy finds itself in a saturated $85 billion market where headphones have become a commodity. Since its inception, the 300-employee company has worked to protect the earth and the climate by choosing everything from vendors and plastic components to how materials are transported and the energy efficiency that would be its new Park City headquarters.
Fortiér admits that Skullcandy is taking a risk in an industry designed around recurring revenue that depends on sales from the launch of newer models. Skullcandy will essentially eat into its own revenue stream, the size of which Fortiér declined to disclose. There is also the risk that the company ships devices with extra parts that may or may not be usable.
But the “land and expand” strategy is smart, says Urvashi Bhatnagar, author of “The Sustainability Scorecard: How to Implement and Profit from Unexpected Solutions.” Instead of continually “coming out” to customers with new products, Skullcandy is engaging consumers over a longer lifespan, allowing them to acquire a larger share of the consumer wallet. “Skullcandy is saving money on new customer acquisition,” he says.
On the other hand, Skullcandy will not have the added cost and time of designing, building, shipping and marketing new products. And sustainable products are in high demand: Up to two-thirds of consumers say they want a company to take a stand on issues that affect them, according to a 2020 Accenture survey. And another KPMG report suggests that 90 percent of customers are willing to pay more for ethical retailers, 50 percent consider environmental and social practices when making a purchase, and nearly 75 percent he says he’ll leave a mark if he thinks he puts it. benefits on people. This is especially true for consumer electronicsin which consumer demand will continue to play an important role in forcing electronics companies to become more sustainable, says Bhatnagar.
Skullcandy’s own internal research found that about half of its customers go to buy new products because theirs didn’t work properly or didn’t have the longevity it used to. The other half bought new because they wanted more advanced audio. “A lot of times, people put these devices in a drawer, forget about them and eventually throw them away,” says Fortiér, “but they’re perfectly good products and they have a lot of life left in them.”
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