Equity framed in the idea of social justice is on a lot of people’s minds these days, including our own at DFL group.
DFL is a product-based framework, however, we don’t assess product price, dictate margins, or define pricing strategies. The goal of DFL products is to bring long-term value to owners. This increased long-term value is Sustain-able – the key to a true Designed For Life product. With that being said, increased value can lead to increased price. Does the commitment to our tenants and long-term value mean there is no place for equity within DFL?
In this context, “equity” refers to “fairness in the treatment of people in terms of both opportunity and outcome”.
From a product point of view, we’re mostly talking about product price and people having access to valuable products based on their income level. The way DFL approaches equity, like many issues we approach, is with a long-term perspective.
At first, DFL products might be priced in a luxury category. Many of the product features based on the DFL framework, such as components meant to be taken apart for easy maintenance, modularity, or added functionalities, will likely cost more to produce. While these attributes add value for the consumer, they also add cost for the company. This added cost will likely be reflected in the product price.
With that being said, capitalist markets ensure that new features introduced in high price categories eventually shift down market as long as there is real value for the consumer. These features can be become less expensive with scale and as new technologies develop to meet the new needs in the marketplace.
For example, the heads-up display or lane departure warnings in cars are features that started in luxury vehicles, but are now pretty standard on new Toyotas.
If the DFL framework is driving innovation and creation of valuable features being introduced into the market, natural market force will drive equity to bring those features to more consumers in the long-term. An interesting dynamic here is that we will be able to see what features truly stick with the consumer.
With that being said, we understand there is some irony in saying capitalist forces will drive equity. Another way DFL products will approach equity is through the idea of investment, and an end-of-life plan that includes a secondhand market.
Let’s consider a simplified example of a person who can buy a $150 pair of work boots that will last 10 years. This person will save money in the long run investing in a good pair of boots versus a person who spends $50 on work boots that will need to be replaced every 2 years. While a DFL product that is more durable will save money in the long run, however, not everyone can afford the upfront investment.
Durable products are also more likely to last on a secondhand market. For example, if someone can only afford to spend $50 on boots, but they buy a pair of DFL boots secondhand that can last them 6 years instead of 2, then theoretically, this consumer will have the ability to save enough to buy a new DFL product. This is a different mindset for accessibility and equity; DFL products might have a higher entry point cost but typically have a lower lifetime cost.
The way we approach equity comes back to the idea of investment – we’re asking consumers to let go of short term gain, ease, and convenience in favor of long-term value. The problem is that the benefit of investment comes at the end of the process, and is intangible. In the case of purchasing DFL boots, for example, the benefit is that a consumer will not need to buy a new pair of boots every 2 years. For most consumers, it’s difficult for us to value this benefit over immediate financial concerns.
So, while equity might not be explicitly part of DFL, we believe that a world where DFL is successful – where consumers are adopting a longer-term vision for their purchases and valuable design features of durability, maintainability, adaptability, and end-of-lifeability are included in more and more products – we will be lead to a more equitable future.