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Economy of functionality (2/2): How to concretely take action on the territories?

In the first part of this article, we presented the concept of economy of functionality, as well as the potential benefits of this new model for organizations and territories. In this second part, you will find tracks to take concrete action on this theme.

Economy of functionality (2/2): How to concretely take action on the territories?

Cooperation and knowledge of users, the keys to taking action on the economy of use

The central objective of the economy of functionality is to respond in a sustainable way to the fundamental needs of users, including in areas of intervention privileged for local authorities such as housing, mobility, food, or health. Public actors and their partners can use this approach to develop their public policies in the direction of greater efficiency and limited environmental impact.

The uses in the areas we have just mentioned are intrinsically embedded in territories. Everyday travel - to go to work, to take one's children to school, to consult a health professional or to carry out a leisure activity - makes this easily apparent. The territorial scale concerned may, of course, vary according to the means by which users' needs are met. The development of short circuits thus makes it possible to meet local needs in terms of food by bringing together consumers and producers in a given territory.

The trend towards dematerialization, involving for example the possibility of medical teleconsultation, makes it possible to broaden access to certain healthcare services, including in isolated areas. These examples show that the creation of value associated with any activity that responds to the needs of users is essentially territorialized. By refocusing on the user, the economy of functionality thus restores all its importance to the territorial dimension of human activities. 

Meeting the needs of users in an economy of use approach requires the involvement and cooperation of a wide variety of organizations operating at different territorial levels. For example, the implementation of a carsharing system in a city requires the cooperation of several departments (mobility, environment, safety, urban planning, etc.) of one or more local authorities, a private mobility operator, network operators (especially electricity), and local residents' and transport users' associations. In order to design an adapted service that can constitute an efficient alternative to the traditional model based on the possession of goods, it is also necessary to develop a detailed understanding of the users, their uses, their environment (social, cultural, etc.), and the constraints of the territory.

A new public mobility service in suburban and rural areas thanks to carpooling:
The company ECOV proposes to local authorities to rethink their shared mobility offer by opening carpooling lines in peri-urban and rural areas where public transport is too expensive to set up and not relevant to the inhabitants' uses. In concrete terms, Ecov identifies the traffic routes for which a carpooling line would be relevant, at given times or throughout the day. Carpooling stops are then identified at points of interest (employment area, park-and-ride facilities, etc.) and the offer is set up: a passenger wishing to travel goes to the carpooling stop closest to his home. He or she informs the destination by text message, by mobile application, or by telephone assistance. This information is displayed on a lighted panel located upstream of the carpool stop. A few minutes later, a driver going in the same direction sees the request on the panel or on his mobile application, stops to pick up the passenger and drops him off at the desired stop.
This approach allows the creation of a new public transport, a new public service, developed in partnership with local authorities and co-constructed with citizens. Click here to learn more

Some ways to take action in your territory

We present here action plans for public and private organizations wishing to engage in an economy of use approach in order to meet the needs of their users, customers or citizens. 

First track

Raise awareness among employees, elected officials and technicians of the potential and conditions for success of the economy of functionality

  • Develop an argument adapted to the target audience to be sensitized: highlight the specific opportunities and benefits that the different types of actors can derive from a shift to a model based on the economy of use
  • Illustrate the awareness-raising actions with success stories: the most successful actions are those that are in line with the specificities of a territory. This is why case studies, examples and educational content must be adapted to local contexts.
  • Adopt a holistic approach to change: adopting a usage economy approach does not only imply a modification of the services provided to users, but a real transformation of all practices in terms of design, production or distribution of goods and services. This leads to a disruption of the very identity of organizations (raison d'être, work organization, cooperation practices inside and outside the organization, nature of partnership, commercial and contractual relationships, etc.) which must be supported. 
Second track

To carry out animation actions on its territory

  • Federate the territorial ecosystem and animate the cooperation between territorial actors, intermediation structures and companies.
"A good coordination and a right involvement of the actors increase the chances that the economy of functionality will be implemented in a sustainable way on the territory" (ADEME, 2020)
  • Relying on regional coordination structures recognized by economic and institutional players (ADEME, Regional Innovation Agencies, Regional Development Agencies, professional associations and clubs, etc.) to launch multi-stakeholder exchange groups on priority themes for the territories concerned. Stable political support and a long-term commitment from funders are essential to secure these structures, which provide administrative and economic support for business and local authority initiatives.

  • Support intermediation structures specifically dedicated to the economy of functionality whose mission is to support the efforts of companies in their transformation towards the economy of use, notably through collective actions to accompany company managers and operational support for the deployment of new services. Associations such as Club Noé in the Hauts-de-France region, Macéo in the Auvergne-Rhônes-Alpes region and Initiatives durables in the Grand Est region play key roles in influencing (promoting the use economy to political decision-makers and network leaders), facilitating the ecosystem of players, providing individual and collective support and project engineering.
Third track

Integrate the economy of functionality in public procurement

Applied to public procurement, the economy of functionality can enable public actors to meet their obligations in terms of circular economy, and more broadly to contribute to an ambitious policy of responsible purchasing. In concrete terms, this requires a radical change of approach: the prescriber will thus order a performance of use (a result) rather than a simple purchase of a good or a service (means), by establishing contracts with a strong positive impact (environmental, social, economic). Energy performance contracts (EPC) are a tool that can be used by public actors to this end in the area of energy efficiency in buildings.

A methodological guide has recently been published by ADEME to assist public purchasers in this process.

The local authorities of the Greater Paris Metropolis and the members of the National Institute of Circular Economy, the Observatory of Responsible Purchasing and the Channels can also participate in a free program of support for circular and solidarity purchases.

Fourth track

Launching concrete experiments

  • Proceed step by step with a "small steps" strategy: after setting up a cooperative ecosystem of actors and defining a vision, it is important to obtain concrete results quickly to maintain motivation while experimenting with the changes brought about by the new models.
  • Rely on specific funding and support mechanisms: for example, in 2020 ADEME launched a research-intervention program for the sustainable development of territories, called COOP'TER (Territoires de Services et de Coopérations). This program, which aims to support innovations in economic models in the regions, has made it possible to support two pilot projects on the theme of food in the Ile-de-France region in 2020, including EpideBri, a social enterprise based in Bondy (93), whose objective is to give everyone the right to healthy and sustainable food. To achieve this objective, this initiative proposes to replace the classic approach of a commercial enterprise, which is to "sell more and more" (in volume and quantity) with an approach of economy of use, aiming to offer advice on how to buy less (in quantity) and better, to sell at the right price, or to offer time for exchange with users and to enrich the repertoire of "recipes" for eating better without spending more. 

To learn more about the program and the projects supported: https: // 

References to go further

References for taking action:

COOP'TER Program:

Download the program brochure: https: //

Academic References:

ADEME, PIKAIA, Paul Boulanger, Emmanuel Delannoy, Julien Valery. 2020. National panorama and tracks of action on the economy of the functionality. Inventory, analysis and interpretation elements. 89p 

ADEME, ATEMIS, Patrice VUIDEL, Brigitte PASQUELIN. 2017. Towards an economy of functionality with high environmental and social value in 2050. Servicing and territorial dynamics at the heart of the new model. Synthesis. 23 pages.

Maillefert, M. & Robert, I. (2017). New economic models and territorial value creation around the circular economy, the economy of functionality and industrial ecology. Revue d'Économie Régionale & Urbaine, , 905-934.

Vaileanu-Paun, I. & Boutillier, S. (2012). Economy of functionality. A new synergy between territory, firm and consumer? Innovations, 37, 95-125.

International references:

Rothenberg, S. (2007). Sustainability Through Servicizing. MIT Sloan Management Review Vol.48 No.2. Find out more here.