Sharing is caring?

Do companies in the sharing economy care more about sustainability than companies in the traditional economy?  This is an interesting question as the sharing economy has a positive connotation towards sustainability, because of the efficient use of resources and accessing as opposed to acquiring and consuming.

The sharing economy is currently gaining momentum in almost every sector in the economy. Although the concept of sharing is more than thousand years old, the internet made it easier for asset owners and users to find each other.  Already 20-30% of the workforce is active in the sharing economy with over $20 billion of spending, which is forecasted to grow to $335 billion by 2025.

Next month, Geissinger et al. (2019) will publish the results of their study about how companies in the sharing economy are communicating about sustainability. They conclude that most companies that operate in the sharing economy do not specifically communicate about their sustainability orientation. From the 121 identified sharing economy platforms only 35 (29%) did refer in some way to sustainability on their website. In their overall communication the study showed that the sharing economy companies do not actively differentiate themselves from traditional companies in the sectors of the economy that they establish themselves in. 

Value unused

I personally think it is a pity that companies in the sharing economy do not take the opportunity to communicate more about sustainability. Sharing can contribute in a positive way to a more sustainable world as it makes goods and services available at lower costs while at the same time these goods and services can be better utilized. One would expect that sustainability could be a growth driver for the sharing platforms, businesses and economy. Apparently sustainability is currently not seen as a unique selling point (yet), nor is it demanded by clients, investors or other stakeholders.

Perhaps the new Global Sustainable Development Report 2019, written by a group of scientists appointed by the UN Secretary-General, can be an inspiration for  participants in the sharing economy to address the importance of communication about sustainability. The Global Sustainable Development Report urges for a different way to produce and consume. Sharing could be an important solution where less use of materials is combined with better availability of products and services.

Sharing can be caring for a more sustainable economy!

Norbert Bol

Literature

Geissinger, A., Laurell, C., Öberg, C., & Sandström, C. (2019). How sustainable is the sharing economy? On the sustainability connotations of sharing economy platformsJournal of Cleaner Production206, 419-429.

Cover photo by CreditScoreGeek.com, share issue.

Photo by Kevin Krejci, Value Unused = Waste

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