The sharing economy: make it sustainable

Studies N°03/2014. Iddri, 2014. 32 p.

Is the sharing economy a tool for ecological transition? The main objective of this report is to analyse the environmental potential of the sharing economy, considered in its full diversity, and the conditions for the realization of this potential.

Highlights

  • A REGENERATING SHARING ECONOMY THAT PROMISES MUCH FOR SUSTAINABILITY

Reselling, giving, swapping, short-term renting and lending—with or without monetary exchange and whether practiced between individuals or through companies or associations—are all models that can help to increase the usage duration of resource-consuming goods. They are part of a real sharing economy that is undergoing regeneration due to the development of digital technologies. “Shareable” goods account for about a quarter of household expenditure and a third of household waste. If sharing models could be operated under the most favourable conditions, savings of up to 7% in the household budget and 20% in terms of waste could be achieved.

  • FROM AN INTUITIVE SENSE OF ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFIT TO THE CONDITIONS FOR ITS REALIZATION

The environmental balance sheet of sharing depends on several conditions that are highly specific to each model. In general, we can see the emergence of the following issues: the sustainability of shared goods, e.g. renting may enable a reduction in the number of goods produced provided that the rented good does not wear out much faster; the optimization of the transport of goods, because the long distance transport of goods is reduced while transport over shorter distances increases; and consumption patterns, sharing models can be the vector of sustainable consumption but also a driver of hyperconsumption.

  • MAKING THE SHARING ECONOMY A SUSTAINABLE ECONOMY

Public authorities should build an economic and regulatory framework that is favourable to virtuous models. Emerging initiatives that enable the exploration of new avenues should be supported through: increased visibility, funding and incubators, and the adjustment of certain regulations. Sharing economy entrepreneurs should analyse and improve their environmental performance. Such entrepreneurs are best placed to develop practical solutions and to use their influence to produce eco-designed goods and promote their recycling. Users have a particularly important role in the case of peer-to-peer models. Environmental impact depends heavily on user behaviour and on the values that drive their actions. Currently, purchasing power is the main user motivation, although environmental considerations are not absent.