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How sustainable is the sharing economy? On the sustainability connotations of sharing economy platforms

PublicationArticle (with peer review)
Andrea Geissinger, Christian Sandström, Christina Öberg, Christofer Laurell, sharing economy, sustainable

Abstract

The sharing economy has evolved and spread to various sectors of the economy. Its early idea linked to the creation of more sustainable uses of resources. Since then, the development of the sharing economy has included a professionalization with self-employed suppliers rather than peers, and the question is whether the platforms following this development maintain the focus on sustainability. This paper describes and classifies the sustainability connotation of sharing economy platforms. It analyses 121 platforms derived through social media analytics to figure out whether they describe themselves as sustainable. The findings suggest that the sustainability connotation closely connects to specific sectors such as fashion, on-demand services and logistics. Meanwhile, the dominant role model platforms do not communicate about being sustainable. These findings contribute to previous research through (1) giving a systematic empirical account on the way various sharing economy platforms describe themselves in terms of sustainability, (2) pointing out the differences among the platforms, and (3) indicating the diversity in sustainability connotation among various sectors of the economy.

Geissinger, A., Laurell, C., Öberg, C., & Sandström, C. (2019). How sustainable is the sharing economy? On the sustainability connotations of sharing economy platforms. Journal of Cleaner Production, 206, 419-429. DOI: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2018.09.196


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Published in

In A Modern Guide to the Urban Sharing Economy. Edward Elgar Publishing.

Abstract

This chapter explores the disparities between the two main dimensions of the contemporary Sharing Economy. On the one side, non-market collaborative economy actors are shaping the community orientation. On the other side, the market-oriented platform economy utilizes commercial interest in cities based on the scalability of ‘peer’ users and providers. It is within this tension that the chapter aims to illustrate how today’s sharing economy got into an identity crisis. By drawing on the literature of organizational identity, we utilize five different sharing economy actors across the market/non-market continuum in Sweden to discover who they are and what societal impact they envision. The chapter discusses how over time, sharing economy actors seem to have moved from a co-operative, non-commercial model of sharing to instead focus on a commercial sharing approach in a predominant urban setting. We end the chapter by initiating a general debate about the future of the peer-to-peer sharing idea.

Buy the book here.

Geißinger, A., Pelgander, L., & Öberg, C. (2021). The identity crisis of sharing: from the co-op economy to the urban sharing economy phenomenon. In A Modern Guide to the Urban Sharing Economy. Edward Elgar Publishing.

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