Traditionally, the consumer’s behaviour has been immersed in a linear economy in which products are made, used and disposed of. Nevertheless, since 2014 a new trend has been taking place: the sharing or circular economy.
Under this new system, the consumption of products and services is moving from owning to sharing and renting. This encourages reusing and recycling in order to give a better use of goods and skills, which not only provides an innovative experience but also an economical benefit.
The ‘use, don’t own’ notion
According to Vincent Rousselet, director of consultancy Vincent Rousselet & Associates, there are 4 factors that have been essential in the spring and development of this peer to peer consumption model:
- The recent credit crunch has made people reconsider their consumption patterns.
- The increased development of the internet and the global connectivity
- The tracking of user online behaviour provides valuable, predictive insights (big data)
- The rise in the user’s consciousness of the consequences of consumerism, regarding specifically the global climate change.
So far, the technological platforms are the foundation and main channels that let this collaborative system evolve around the world. The Nesta report ‘Making Sense of the UK Collaborative Economy’, states that in 2014 “25 per cent of UK adults used internet technologies to share assets/resources over the last year.”
Some of the most outstanding examples are Airbnb and Uber. The first one encourages individuals to share their homes for short periods of time while the latter transforms private cars into resources for public transportation. Most of these companies are for-profit services that only keep a small fraction of the fees charged.
According to the Journalist’s Resource, Airbnb has over 10 million guest-stays on their records and 500.000 properties listed while Uber is doubling its profits every 6 months.
Even though this economic model has worldwide detractors that argue it replaces secure jobs through a trend of part-time, low-paid work, there are already around 860 start-ups in this sector. Accounting for 1 in 10 of these, the UK is the European capital of the sharing economy.
Stand out start-ups
Since these peer-to-peer services are an alternative towards the fulfillment of the different consumption patterns, there are several start-ups that are worth noting due to its creativity or valuable contribution to a more sustainable socio-economic model:
1. Feeding Forward (United States)
This platform allows any kind of business can request a pick up of their food surplus. Considered to be a donation, it is afterwards delivered to nearby shelters in need. The objective is to allow companies to receive a tax reduction and reduce disposal costs while ending hunger in the world.
2. Fon (Spain)
Through millions of hotspots around the world, it enables users to share their WiFi network in exchange of getting this service for free in any of the 16 countries that are part of their network. It started with residential wireless connection only and then moved forward to small, medium and large venues.
3. Misterbnb (United States)
With 30.000 hosts in 130 countries, this is the largest gay travel accommodation in the world. The objective is to develop a sense of belonging by helping this community to travel safely while learning local insider tips.
4. Hassle (United Kingdom)
Regardless of the venue (room, flat or even a mansion) this company is able to provide a local professional cleaner in a 60-second online request. No matter if it is a one-off, weekly or a fortnightly clean, the cost per hour will always be the same and it can be refunded if the service is not good enough.
5. Pley (United States)
Subscription platform that allows families to rent toys for a short period of time (as kids grow). Through a 70% cost reduction and the elimination of clutter, the aim is to raise a playful, creative generation aware of the principles of sharing and waste reduction.
6. Kiwi (Colombia)
As long as it is legal, this company challenges users to ask them for any kind of service or product. Food, alcohol, electronics, reservations, plane tickets, health care services, clowns and even pranks can be requested. Through a network of national and international providers, Kiwi is capable of providing a 24/7 service in Bogota and Mexico City.
The Sharing Economy has had a smashing beginning. Even though it seems to be a promising land entailing a social, cultural, economic and environmental transformation, it is paramount to create global and local legal frameworks able to regulate its proper implementation.
If this system manages to integrate and assemble the multiple society sectors under a common good premise, in the future we might discover that we are currently in a historic transitional period towards a new worldwide economic model.
Written by Estefanía Jurado Rodríguez