Collaborative Consumption: Are we living in a Shareconomy?

Have you ever used a car-sharing service like Uber or Car Next Door? What about an experience with house swapping by staying in a stranger’s home through sites like Airbnb? Perhaps you have rented a bike to explore a new city, or hired a surfboard to test out your skills on the waves?

These are all common examples of how our economy is shifting towards sharing, as people find it financially beneficial to rent out their idle assets and others see no point in purchasing when it proves inexpensive to hire items as needed.

Rachel Botsman notes that this form of collaborative consumption is the ‘reinvention of traditional market behaviours.’ The Share Economy fosters relationships between people for the purpose of exchange, powered by new technologies and online platforms. The ‘Peer-to-peer’ model of sharing goods and services is steadily gaining momentum, as individuals realise the benefits of increased flexibility and the opportunity for self-governance.

So, what does this have to do with the sustainability sector? An economy based around sharing decreases negative consumption habits. It paves the way for more sustainable use of underutilised resources with an emphasis placed on access rather than personal ownership. If we take the example of car-sharing, it has been estimated that for every car-share vehicle, car ownership is reduced by 9-13 vehicles*. Just a few benefits of this to our environment include lower production rates, less pollution, less congestion on the roads, lower petrol costs and positive shared experiences.

By allowing people access to ‘more’ while minimising waste, there is a real potential for a shared economy to become a tool for ecological transition.

While there is still undoubtedly many kinks to be ironed out in terms of maximising the positive impact of peer-to-peer lending, the core vision of this system surrounds disrupting the traditional social and economic structures around consumption, which could create a new and exciting pathway towards sustainability.

 

* Reference: Owyang, J Tran, C & Silva, C 2013 ‘A Market Definition Report: The Collaborative Economy,’ Altimeter Research