The life cycle of products initially came to us as part of marketing. Back in the seventies and eighties of the 20th century, American experts explained to us that marketing plans needed to be tuned to the product’s stage of life. A new product is first adopted (if at all) by a small group of advanced trend setters.   

A larger group of trend followers then takes over and turnover starts to rise. In the next stage, the product reaches the big public, resulting in massive sales figures. The product finally loses its popularity and turnover drops quickly.


In the nineties, ‘life cycle’ made us think mainly of the environment. Technical companies and industries made a life cycle analysis (LCA) to show that they worked in a responsible manner. A product was investigated ‘from cradle to grave’ to find out which environmental impact it had in the course of time. Or, as we would put it now, which footprint it left behind. Raw material extraction, energy consumption and waste during manufacture, emissions during product use and disposal or recycling afterwards, were all carefully assessed and documented. A few years later, recycling and reuse in new raw materials were emphasized more and more, so the approach was renamed into ‘from cradle to cradle’.

Product details

These days, we also know the product life cycle from the abbreviation PLM (Product Lifecycle Management). PLM doesn’t concern the environment that much; it’s more about flexibility and efficiency in handling all kinds of product details, no matter from which system or database they originate. This doesn’t mean at all that the environment is losing public interest. In fact, sustainability and ‘green’ are more current themes in industry than ever before. But the average consumer meanwhile has adopted another point of view: We are through with discussing principle issues, we simply expect manufacturers to do their best and to deal with matters in a proper way as they should.


Besides, investigations show that ‘green’ itself is no trigger for buying a product. Most consumers appreciate a sustainable or green product if it has practical advantages, such as a lower energy consumption or tax exemption. Lower quality or higher prices without extra benefits are not accepted from greener products. It is remarkable that in the Netherlands, we still have to choose environment-friendly green electricity for our houses. Apparently this is necessary for financial governmental support that keeps the prices low. But electricity suppliers have huge advertising campaigns to seduce us into buying green power, so how much of the governmental support is needed for that? A far simpler solution: If green electricity is available, then simply supply it to everyone.

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