Sharing economy

Making sustainability pay

Sharing economy: A double-edged sword?

Sharing-economy models are not only financially viable, but also promote a more eco-friendly economy and sustainable consumption. Where several people share a product, fewer resources are needed overall and the environment is preserved. However, a new study by ING shows that the concept also has its shortcoming.

Increasingly more people are using sharing platforms, for instance to use cars, private homes or household appliances on a temporary basis. This, however, this does not automatically translate to a positive impact on the environment. On the contrary: consumers tend to dispose or replace products they share more quickly.

Why do we discard shared products more quickly?

The study is based on the assumption that consumers tend to view products that they share with others as used up and inferior more quickly than products that they own and use alone. For this to happen, the product does not have to be physically damaged; sharing with others is enough to trigger this subjective perception.

It doesn't matter whether you own things and share them regularly with others or whether a community buys products together to share them. In other words, whether someone shares their own lawnmower with their neighbors or the neighborhood buys a lawnmower together, the willingness to replace the product more quickly is the same in both cases. Only the combination of individual ownership and use prevents consumers from disposing the product too soon.

Raising awareness and improving product development are necessary

The increased higher tendency of consumers to dispose and replace shared products quickly goes against the resource-saving principle of the Sharing Economy. Policymakers and companies are called upon to educate about the life cycle of products and create awareness for more sustainable consumption decisions. For example, efforts could be made as early as in the product development stage to ensure that objective indicators of ageing in products are made more visible to consumers to prevent products from being discarded or replaced prematurely.