Walter Stahel

Walter R. Stahel is a Swiss architect, graduating from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zürich in 1971. He has been influential in developing the field of sustainability, by advocating ‘service-life extension of goods – reuse, repair, remanufacture, and technological upgrade’ philosophies as they apply to industrialized economies. He co-founded the Product Life Institute in Geneva, Switzerland, a consultancy devoted to developing sustainable strategies and policies, after receiving recognition for his prize-winning paper ‘The Product Life Factor’ in 1982. Stahel’s ideas, and those of similar theorists, led to what is now known as the circular economy in which industry adopts the reuse and service-life extension of goods as a strategy of waste prevention, regional job creation and resource efficiency, in order to decouple wealth from resource consumption – that is, to dematerialize the industrial economy. The circular economy has been adopted by the state-owned-and-run China Coal industry as a guiding philosophy. In the 1990s, Stahel extended this vision to selling goods as services, as the most efficient strategy of the circular economy. He described this approach in his 2006 book The Performance Economy, with a second enlarged edition in 2010 containing 300 examples and case studies. He currently works closely with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation on further promoting his ideas with economic actors.