People are living in a new digital age characterized by technological innovation and digital connectivity, and traditional consumer attitudes and behaviours are undergoing dramatic changes. The arrival of the sharing economy has revolutionized the way people understand ownership, access to resources and participate in economic transactions. An innovative economic model driven by digital platforms, is a powerful catalyst for sustainable progress and inclusive prosperity, redefining the way people access goods, services and experiences based on the principles of trust, collaboration and resource optimization. Supported by a variety of digital platforms, the sharing economy not only challenges established norms and encourages the sharing of spare resources by individuals, but also allows for the creation of new communities, thus fostering a more connected and resource-efficient society.
The concept of sharing resources and services has been around for a long time, but the digital age has made the concept a globalized phenomenon. The first mention of the sharing economy as we understand it today was actually in 2007 (John, N. A. 2016). Today, peer-to-peer platforms like Airbnb, Uber, and others are household names, offering resources and services ranging from accommodation and transportation to freelancing. It has to be mentioned that the sharing economy thrives on principles such as access over ownership, trust between strangers and efficient use of available resources. These principles are a challenge to the traditional economic model, and they emphasize the values of community, cooperation and sustainable living, expanding the space and creating more possibilities for development in our society today.
Sustainability through Resource Optimization
Sustainability can be achieved through resource optimization in the sharing economy. According to scientists, the overexploitation of natural resources due to our unsustainable consumption, especially in more developed countries, is responsible for the catastrophic collapse of animal species and leads to the continued emission of greenhouse gases (Curtis, S. K., & Lehner, M., 2019). Therefore, solutions needed to address our unsustainable consumption patterns. The sharing economy emphasizes the sharing of underutilized assets in a way that increases efficiency and sustainability, and it can be labeled by different names such as collaborative economy, access economy, platform economy, and community-based economy (Hossain, M., 2020). It is therefore evident that the core of the sharing economy is to promote sustainable development through resource optimization, an act that not only saves the planet’s precious resources but also mitigates the impact on the environment. Many people have underutilized resources or assets at home, such as real estate, tools, and vehicles, and optimizing these resources by making them available to those who need them will drastically reduce the need to develop and produce new products, thus curbing the overconsumption of raw materials and energy. Take uber, a wellknown peer-to-peer digital platform which fulfils the idea of the sharing economy for example, any ordinary person with a driving licence who has extra time and a idle vehicle can become a driver and take orders on top of the platform, charging a fee for picking up and dropping off customers who have a need for a ride. This can put idle private cars to good use and help people with a need for rides, and drivers can also make money to earn a living in this way. In my personal experience, I occasionally use Uber to take a ride when I don’t have time to take public transport. Some uber drivers have other formal jobs and just use their spare time as drivers, but some have devoted themselves to the job, turning driving an uber internet car into their full-time job and playing soothing music in the car, preparing sweets for customers, mobile phone holders that allow customers to They also play soothing music in the car, have sweets for customers, phone holders for charging their phones, and trash bags in the back seat for customers to use. Every time I meet such a caring driver, I am very satisfied with my ride and feel much better on the way. In this way, those occasional hitchhikers wouldn’t need to buy a car specifically for travelling purposes, and an empty car can be put to good use and become more meaningful, which is the concept of usage over ownership emphasised by the sharing economy. Car-sharing platforms like Uber allow multiple users to use the same car, thus reducing the total number of cars on the road, which not only optimises the use of existing resources while easing the pressure on the transport infrastructure, but also serves the environmental purpose of reducing carbon emissions.
Economic Growth and Job Creation
In addition to sustainability and environmental benefits, the sharing economy plays a key role in stimulating economic growth and creating jobs. In contrast to the sharing economy, traditional economic models typically rely on large brick-and-mortar companies to create jobs and drive economic growth. However the sharing economy breaks traditional norms by empowering individuals and small businesses to participate in the marketplace and promote innovation. The sharing economy encourages micro-entrepreneurship and self-employment, and with the growth of the internet and online platforms, individuals can do a variety of freelance jobs without the need for large investments, enabling people to monetize their respective skills and assets. Examples include carpooling, renting out homes, using a skill to help others or provide a service. Building on these pre-existing resources and skills creates individual businesses and self-sustaining income streams that contribute to the economic growth of society. People who have extra rooms in their homes can then rent them out to people in need through Airbnb. This peer-to-peer service is convenient and fast as there is no intermediary agency involved, and tenants and hosts are in direct contact. Some people who are travelling nearby or have a need for short-term rentals, and staying in a hotel is relatively low cost-effective, they can choose to stay in a home with a spare room, which is cheaper and allows them to better integrate into the local environment and culture. I believe that staying in a home is very different from staying in a hotel, and can give tenants the warmth of home and a new experience. Landlords can use this to start their own business, a house is occupied by different people at different times, and the home becomes a place for sharing, thus the idea of sharing is caring is sublimated. It’s more about sharing and experience rather than a stereotypical business model. In addition, the sharing economy in the digital marketplace can foster a diverse range of positions and needs to promote employment. Running these digital platforms requires staff in related fields such as marketers, data analytics teams, web programming, customer after-sales and service. Creating employment opportunities at various points of need. Enabling more people previously excluded from the traditional job market to participate in personal enterprise or economic activity. Whether it’s a technician or a service worker, the sharing economy creates more employment opportunities in non-traditional sectors, gives more people a platform to showcase their talents, and helps more people find the right role.
It cannot be ignored that, while we can all feel the convenience and opportunities that the sharing economy offers, it also has some challenges, they also involve broader societal implications such as fairness, accessibility, democratic control and accountability. Such values are key to the struggle to platform global society (Poell, & Waal, M. de (Eds.), 2018). Sharing economy platforms need to pay special attention to the issue of user data privacy, as these platforms collect a large amount of private information and behavioural habits related to their users, such as uber-drivers who know users’ home addresses, phone numbers, names, and even the bank card numbers used for payment. Airbnb renters are logged with more detailed information, including their habits when living at home every move involves privacy and security. Users are concerned about how this data will be utilised and the platform needs stricter regulatory measures. Lack of regulation is another aspect that needs to be worried about. Whether the income of the sharing economy is transparent, whether the private transactions follow tax standards, whether the renters meet the relevant standards and are able to take legal responsibility all these need to be rigorously examined, although the sharing economy is not a traditional industry, but because of this, it needs to be regulated and maintained accordingly to ensure that everyone’s benefits and rights.
In conclusion, the sharing economy represents a huge shift from traditional to shared ways of economic activity in society as a whole, and there is no doubt that it contributes to the development of society, stimulating economic growth, environmental sustainability as well as the creation of new jobs and the establishment of new communities. More people are embracing the sharing economy and realising that it is not just an option but a social necessity. But at the same time it needs to be better regulated to make it better, so that it can better serve the public, so that the world’s remaining resources can be optimised, and the economy can flourish, in harmony, and better shared by anyone.
The Sharing Economy: A Catalyst for Sustainable Progress and Inclusive Prosperity © 2023 by Danlei Wei is licensed under CC BY-ND 4.0
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