1.1.        
Introduction
– 73 words

This report attempts
to answer the question “To what extent is the Sharing Economy environmentally
sustainable?”. First of all, the methodology used when searching academic
literature is explained. Section 1.3 then defines what the sharing economy
model is and evaluates the different views found in the literature in relation
to the environmental sustainability of the model. Lastly, the conclusion states
the answer to the research question and explains what further work is needed.

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1.2.        
Methodology
– 186 words

Google scholar
as well as the university Library Search were used in order to find relevant
academic journal articles. The first search using the term ‘sharing economy’
resulted in more than 3 million articles.

Consequently,
further searches were done using more specific terms and phrases such as
‘benefits of the sharing economy’ or ‘sustainability of the sharing economy’ in
order to find more relevant articles. The period range was also reduced to only
show articles published after 2013. This resulted 81,800 articles about ‘sustainability
of the sharing economy’. The first few pages were inspected and 4 articles were
chosen for use to answer the research question. Different experiments were then
done such as including only articles which had both terms in their titles. This
resulted in only 12 articles, 1 of which was selected for most relevance to the
research question.

Other search
terms such as ‘negative effects of the sharing economy’ and ‘environmental
impact of the sharing economy’ were researched on both Google Scholar and
Library Search. A total of 8 academic journal articles were done following this
research method and experimenting with search terms.

 

 

1.3.        
Summary
of Research Findings & Critical Analysis – 637 words

The literature
found around the Sharing Economy gives different definitions for the model. Heinrichs
(2013) defines the model as using market intelligence in order to promote a
collaborative and sustainable society. Whilst this is true about the model, it
is too general. Daunoriené et. Al. (2015) explains that the sharing economy is
“the benefits of capturing value with temporary access-rights to a product or
service” (p.836).

Technology is
a central part of the model. In fact, Martin (2016) goes even further and
defines the model as “the online platform which enables citizens to engage in
peer-to-peer (P2P) form of economic activity” (p.151).

The sharing economy encompasses a
number of different sectors and business models, with transportation and
accommodation, accounting for 50% of the transaction volumes related to sharing
activities in 2015 in the UK (Statista, 2015).

 

            The
model, although widely used by many people, companies, and in many countries,
has both positive and negative impacts to the environment. The benefits of it
tend to be more known, which is one of the reasons why the model became widely
used.

One of the
main benefits of the sharing economy is that it reduces the demand for new
goods, which means that less goods are being produced (Frenken and Schor, 2017)
(Daunoriené et. Al., 2015). Secondly, as Heinrichs (2013) explains, the model
relies on people using products rather than owning them. Consequently, more
people are finding new uses for old goods that they own, and share them with
other rather than throwing them away, which is a form of upcycling.

Mehra (2017)
explains that by sharing old or unused assets, which leads to less production
of goods, greenhouse gases emissions are reduced. Moreover, he states that when
homes are being shared, water consumption is greatly reduced too.

            These
benefits are one of the main reasons why people participate in the sharing
economy. In fact, a study found that 32% of people indicate ‘to be green’ as a
factor for participating in sharing activities (Bocker and Meelen, 2017). People
want to do ‘green consumption’ more and more and they believe that the sharing
economy is environmentally sustainable (Hamari et. Al., 2015).

 

 

            Although
it is believed to be environmentally sustainable, the sharing economy is very
criticized, and many of the benefits of it are not proven (Frenken, 2017)
(Frenken and Schor, 2017). In fact, Verboven and Vanherck (2016), explain that
the model has many unintended side-effects, which lead to negative impacts for
the environment. Maxwell (2011), calls this the rebound effect, which is
defined as “an increase in consumption which may occur as an unintended
side-effect of the introduction of policy, market and technology interventions
aimed at environmental efficiency improvements.” (Cited in Verboven and
Vanherck, 2016, p.305). This rebound effect leads to hyper consumption as the
products or services are offered at lower prices.

            As
a consequence, some of the unintended effects that impact the environment
negatively are: increase use of car and transports, increase electricity and
gas usage in houses that would normally be left empty, and over-consumption,
such as using shared bikes instead of walking (Yeo, 2017) (Verboven and
Vanherck, 2016).

            Thus,
Martin (2016) believes that the model is unlikely to drive sustainability
transition as its benefits are very limited compared to its negative
side-effects.

 

           

            Nevertheless,
it is important to state that due to the many different business models and
sectors included in the sharing economy, the benefits and negative impacts will
not always be the same.  In fact, Frenken
(2017) explains that the sector with the highest environmental benefits is
car-sharing. He states that car-sharing leads to a 13-18% decrease in CO2
emissions (Frenken, 2017). Consequently, it is not surprising to see that the
environmental motivations for participating in the sharing economy are higher for
car and ride sharing than for the other sectors (Bocker and Meelen, 2017).

 

 

 

 

1.4.        
Conclusions
– 112 words

Overall, the
sharing economy is not fully environmentally sustainable. As the analysis above
shows, the authors who write about the topic all have different opinions on this
question. Although it is clear that the intentions of the companies and people
participating in it are to be more ‘green’ and to consume sustainably, the
negative unintended side-effects cause the model to be widely criticized and to
be used for more economic benefits and goals. Further work is needed in finding
out more in-depth what the benefits and disadvantages of each sector and
business model are in order to have a better idea of whether the disadvantages
counter balance the benefits or not.

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