One of the biggest emerging economic models in the 4th Industrial Revolution is the sharing economy. The Sharing Economy is normally defined as a peer-to-peer based sharing of access to goods and/or services, which usually facilitated by an online community-based platform. This type of economy puts the focus on sharing underutilised products or assets in ways which improve sustainability, efficiency, and community.
Consumer/Users and consumer-owners of these shared products are the most essential participants to the sharing economy and therefore, are able to play a significant role in the sustainability of it. By promoting shared usage, a product-service system approach, and the ability to transform goods into services, 'service providers' (whether private or public or individual owners seeking to maximize and promote the efficient use of their possessions) can incentivize users that a collaborative industry is a strong one economically, creatively, and sustainably.
Through the promotion of property pooling (usage of products or even techniques) rather than focusing on ownership, the sharing economy brings together the possessions of participants to encourage their usage by many others. These might be objects used on a daily basis, like a house or car, a project or a skill, or even manufacturing equipment, the rationale is that by widening a possession's circle of beneficiaries, this will reduce the number of new goods used or consumed.
In this age of collaborative consumption, access over ownership (where users offer and share their goods and services to other users for a limited time through peer-to-peer sharing activities, such as renting and lending) being able to attract people for reasons that are primarily economic and financial in the beginning can then create comradeship, social ties and community while generating, over time, more sustainable behavior.
Recent developments suggest that collaborative consumption platforms are used to foster a sustainable marketplace that takes advantage of the social, economic and environmental consequences of consumption in order to meet both current and future needs.
Even in the manufacturing industry, there are a number of reasons why companies are now pursuing sustainability:
- Reducing costs and waste to increase operational efficiency
- Focus on building long-term business success and viability.
- Creatively find ways that respond to new regulatory constraints with opportunities
- Strengthen their brand and reputation which also builds trust
- Reach new customers and increase competitive advantage
In the end, these practices encourage manufacturers to change their production methods towards a more service-based approach with the main objective no longer being simply to sell a product but to support the experience and usage of a product. Collaborative manufacturing and access to ownership limits waste and generates savings.
The new sharing economy has the potential to promote the much-needed evolution in our collective consumption behavior.