Sharing is all about the media. Forbes, Guardian, New York Times, the Economist or even CNN, they all overwhelm us with information about the upcoming sustainable movement in Economy. In recent discussions this movement revived the dusty term ‘sharing’.
But what is all this about?
Technological progress and disposable assets are linked to each other, since its lifetime gets shorter and shorter. Products brake, and this even earlier than they used to years ago. Some, such as Giles Slade, suggest that products are neither designed to last, a concept called “death dating” nor to remain functional for a long time. Companies uphold production and reveal new models of their products each year to stimulate our consumerism. The consumers usually perceive their products as worthy and well designed in the first year, than they turn out in the second as out-dated, not modern and inconvenient.
The company alleges: Get a new one; our new products are even faster and more advanced. An old, often still working, product remains in its packaging stored somewhere in the basement. Thereby we automatically take part in an environmental-unfriendly economy supporting idle assets and increasing waste.
A solution to improve the overall situation could be to consume differently. For example taking part in Collaborative Consumption, in which consumers can reduce their own carbon footprints and impacts.
Sharing Economy in future.
Does Sharing impact our world and makes it a greener more sustainable place? Or is it just about soothing our conscious?
‘Yes’, insists Rachel Botsman, who published a book about the rising Sharing Economy. She reasons Collaborative Consumption is beneficial. In addition she states that there are no downsides because Collaborative Consumption just widens the spectrum of economy. A more efficient allocation saves resources. This argument goes hand in hand with Chesky’s statement, CEO of AirBnb. He enforces Botsman’s argument about the benefits for Economy and operating businesses: ‘For us to win, no one has to lose.’
A similar view and a contrary opinion about the product’s lifespan shortage, has Enrico Cassinelli, author on sharedesk.net. He is in favour of the movement and expresses that our Economy is on the right track. He argues that production cycles and processes in economy rather are prolonged and improved, especially in the context of Collaborative Consumption. Companies endorse longer lifetimes and change their business model from the old-fashioned producer to a service provider. Lending their products to consumers allows them to take part in the still embryonic Sharing Economy. A great example of a provided service by a multinational company is offering Carsharing. In the nature of things, companies want to maximize profits. Therefore we have to admit that it is more appealing to them to build a long lasting product, because a durable car used in a Carsharing service means less expenses and more profit in future.
All that glitters is not gold.
On the other hand, a critical viewpoint on this has Steven T. Jones, a journalist, who works for the Francisco Bay guardian. He is questioning the topic of Collaborative Consumption in terms of impacts, hidden costs or unfair competition. In addition he brings into the discussion lurid aspects about the major and most dominant, often cited as ‘magnificent’, example of the new Sharing Economy: AirBnb.
Undoubtedly its growth is impressive but it does not make the world a greener place says Steven T. Jones. AirBnB’s downside is its contribution to society in financial terms. AirBnB has (barely llegal) tax debts, because they are not wiling to pay the local fees and taxes for housing.
The opportunities of using their service, according to Chesky are to experience many different places out of a local point of view. The company promotes travelling, which is undeniably great. Although the negative impacts of augmenting travel, thanks to a cheap housing service are concealed. Due to a connected, globalized world, the expanded ‘globe-trotting lifestyle’ is a substantial problem in terms of air-pollution.
Once you start reading news about Collaborative Consumption you realize that many companies want to keep pace with the successful “Sharing” companies. Also Walmart, the third-highest, strong-selling company worldwide taps its toe into Collaborative Consumption. As a low-price paying importer of goods, who is not willing to pay more than the minimum wage in developing countries, they set up a sharing-platform Yerdle. Seems like a contradiction – Yerdle is their attempt to get a share of the pie and promote the platform as the sustainable and green way of doing business. In a panel Werbach, Walmart’s manager of Sustainability admits that Yerdle does not make Walmart a better, fairer company.
Collaborative Consumption does not make the world greener, insists Milo Yiannopoulos, editor-in-chief of the Kernel. According to him, sharing plays against a common sense; it rather is about making markets more efficient. Sharing isn’t a trend evoked out of an altruistic behaviour; it is a creative but effective movement to make profit effortless, whether for a firm or for oneself. In his words, we all trace a better, happier, more efficient and fulfilled life and only therefore we decide to share. It rewards us with a good feeling, because you don’t have a cognitive load associated with owning. The reason seems obvious, whatever you own and don’t use it, is once going to waste, although there might be someone, who would need it. Help him out of this misery with the concept of ‘sharing’. If you don’t, it amounts to wasting money for a product you already paid for.
In sum we can say Collaborative Consumption changes western consumerism. Material and commodity consumption gives us a certain feeling for which we are ready to pay for. Slowly, people get aware of how to use their assets and also how to benefit of the trend by making money. We can maintain this extraordinary feeling by sharing. In addition, we can concede that the movement of Collaborative Consumption is significantly increasing in popularity because new internet-enabled social networks, paired with smart phones facilitate all this. And is this not a grandiosity of our technical progress?
I am convinced that sharing is still in its infancy and that is why I promote the trend by offering my own apartment to strangers. I do not want to receive money for it, because I offer my spare couch on ‘Couchsurfing’. I made fantastic experiences in all kind of countries from Australia, Malaysia to England and Bolivia. It enriched my view on cultures, people and made my travels a never-ending story, as I get often visitors, I met abroad. To conclude, I want to admit that I favour the Service-provider model of global companies. I work for a Carsharing company in Berlin and can observe the phenomenon of the Sharing Economy every day. It is convenient but also resource-saving and efficient. Personally I can sum up that I will try to stick to the principles of a sustainable economy in future as good as I can, focussing on Collaborative Consumption.