Before we conclude, we choose to reflect upon the limits on how business models can be compared for environmental performance, as they are bound by the means to calculate their impacts, a life cycle approach. On top of the previous limits earlier mentioned when discussing the estimations, generalizations and proxies that are used in each life cycle evaluation, we present two limits that need to be exposed. We must be conscious of the fact that each organization’s situation is unique and evolving.
As we have discussed so far, there are some hints as to a positive relationship between certain business models and environmental improvement. The actual short-long term effects, however, can only be judged on a case by case basis (Zaring and Örninge, 2002). The uniqueness of each organization is the first limit of comparing two models. Even if some businesses might share the same business model, they will have a different client base, corporate culture, geographic situation, knowledge workers. They involve many relationships and it would be tedious for life cycle assessments study the impacts of all the ramifications of a business model. Therefore, the environmental impact reduction potential could vary in function of such differences. This is because generalizations from life cycle assessments are difficult as they are built to give specific results.
The second limit to studying the link between business models and environmental impacts is that there are many indirect impacts of business models. The multiple ways an organization can cater to a client’s needs make it difficult to include all of them within life-cycle assessment approaches. Although products are more definite in terms of physical materials, the intensity and frequency of use amongst clients greatly varies in time. Therefore second limit is that relationships with organizations are evolving. For example, emergent properties such as the rebound effect should be expected from changing consumption patterns. This could potentially eliminate the savings and increase consumption. To address this limit, Bartolomeo et al. (2003) presented a categorization for different kinds of rebound effects of business models. They argued that most of literature explains the importance of this factor; but there is not any integrated information about relation of rebound effect with each of PSS categories. We have spoken previously about the possible pitfalls of renting and leasing models on the environment.
In retrospect, business models aren’t finite like objects; they are unique and evolving. Both characteristics limit the ease with with life cycle evaluations can study business models. Next, we expose some insights for designing business models with environmental benefits.