Sharing economy: Growth vs. Development

Settling society needs with nature restrictions through the sharing economy


It Could be defined as an increase in output being simply a way to measure that we have “more” of something, progressive authors state growth is not environmentally sustainable, even financial growth, which we may think is indefinite, must meet the constrains of space and time when it reaches the market. However growth of our economy it is no longer driven by genuine needs, but by the need of having more, newer stuff; active pursue of this do not make people happy, even reaching the goal, because people are continuously craving for more things.

Achievement of “constant growth” is really an unsustainable illusion1) based on non rational exploitation of people and natural resources, especially in poorer countries where the gap between the highest and lowest incomes is widest.

In the end continued exploitation of resources comes to a break point where crisis arises, then a new need is generated, its resource is found and the cycle restarts, historically the cycle is shorter than before. Therefore we need to find a way out from the cycle


Means increasing quality of life, specifically human well-being; development assessment refers to quantitative as well as qualitative changes in the social fabric which reveal the quality of live a society has achieved measuring:

  • Quantitative expansion in the volume of social activities
  • Qualitative expansion in the content of all those elements that make up the social fabric.
  • Geographic extension of the social fabric to bring more of the population under the cover of that fabric.
  • Integration of existing and new organizations so that the social fabric functions more efficiently..

Societies Goal: Growth vs Development

Therefore while growth as a goal for societies, set us in a race to gather more stuff just for the sake of having a higher social ranking disregarding everything else, even the environment or life itself, finally taking ourselves to a path of auto-destruction. Development as a goal, takes our efforts to a whole different playground, focusing on this last concept, we need to gather material goods only to meet our own definition of well-being, therefore we would not do anything consciously to harm our life or anything that supports it. Further we would be set to try our hardest to find whatever makes our life better and enhance it by all means.

The Sharing Economy

The sharing economy, also known as collaborative consumption model, is on its way to achieve a society that focuses on well-being development not just growth. In some way it is the next step on human social and economical evolution. In this document, the potential benefits and flaws, or how this “new” concept works will not be discussed, because there are other sources that talk about that extensively2)3)4)5), rather, it is important to know the effects this idea has in our society.

It is not surprising that the big boom of sharing came between years 2008 to 2010 when the financial collapse hit hard. Now, with the support of new information technologies, peer-to-peer rental seen by many as the best way to find the good they need for short periods of time while at the same time it provides financial gain to the other party, but collaboration does not stop there .

Peer-to-peer rental

Is the area of this new concept which is better known to most people, this strategy relies in the power of internet to connect owners of underused assets, with others willing to pay to use them. The internet allows peers to connect in an easy and affordable way.

Surfing the internet you can find plenty of sharing services6)7) for communities arround the developed world, from renting goods like tools, bicycles and even boats for a short periods of time, space rental is also very popular, renting a room or shed space you have to spare; with the newest mobile applications it is even possible to find a ride you could take in real-time, using a peer-to-peer taxi service.

Though peer-to-peer rental is not a solution for everybody, it is difficult at least, to use this system without having universal internet access, this is likely the biggest challenge which needs to be solved by developing countries.

Collaborative finance

  • Micro loans8). Working together people can reduce poverty, while they offer their own communities with new sources of work by supporting entrepreneurs to grow their businesses.
  • Crowdfunding9). Is an alternative for independent developers to find funding for their projects among the community, the proposal becomes publicised on-line where people can review it along with the public profile of the author; if someone is willing to support the project he gets exclusive access and rewards. The method is all or nothing, the developer sets a funding goal, if the goal is reached then people are charged via Amazon Payments, and the founders get their rewards; otherwise no funds are charged.

Off-line collaboration

It is possible to collaborate without using a high technological application to facilitate the interaction, there are several examples of succesful ways to add the efforts of the community constructing useful services, these might not be as known as those which use the internet to connect peers, but they are very effective in their regions of operation, as part of the whole system their impact is not to be neglected, even if is difficult to estimate it, because of their locality.

  • The “Good Food Box”. It is a project which bridges the gap between consumers and producers of vegetables in Canada, there are a number of beneficial effects to all communities involved with this initiative10).

Organizers of this non-profit alternative distribution system, refer they use the added purchasing power they gather from consumers in different Canadian communities to purchase the whole production from canadian farmers mainly, this way they can get wholesale prices no individual costumer would be able to get on its own. On top of that they are able to place some conditions to the produce in other to increase its quality. **Products are local. They guarantee you will buy a box with at least 50% local or regional food. **Food quality. **

  • It is fresh and local when possible.
    • Food is Organic.
    • Grown with sustainable practices.
  • Social commitment to producers. Fair trade is promoted.
    • Food is cheaper. People expects produce at these quality standards having premium cost, since the buy is done directly to the producer 50% is saved, having these quality for less price actually.
    • Social commitment to consumers. The box consumption promotes high quality food intake, the organization supports several local initiatives to guarantee nutrition among children and promote sustainable practices.
  • Community power. Alternative renewable sources of energy are a great idea for communities, but the are really expensive, this has encouraged collaboration towards achieving this goal.

The U.S. Department of Energy, has documented some of these organizational efforts, analysing their results and challenges, providing a document full of experiences and recommendations11).

The early and not so early effects of the sharing economy

In a survey reported by Latitude Research and Shareable Magazine in 2010, 78% of participants identified their online interactions as a lubricant to the idea of sharing with strangers. At the same time more than 3 in 5 respondents think there is a connection between a sustainable society and the sharing economy.

Serious efforts have been done to set up sharing systems among several communities, successful strategies have been created to take advantage of technological tools to facilitate a sharing system. Actually in the same survey, states that 85% of the respondents think that technology, specifically the WWW and mobile technologies, will continue helping to build large-scale communities. Plus 75% of respondents think sharing goods will increase over the next 5 years.

Sharing goods and swapping things you need for stuff other people are supplying also might be the best “new way” to meet a high standard of living with out depleting the precious and limited natural resources we have.

Society has discovered community collaboration to be a way towards development avoiding the “need” of infinite growth here we have seen several expressions of the sharing economy, there are some which might be left behind such as swapping goods with no money, or “new” currencies. But likely the ultimate expression of collaborative communities at work is……

Open Communities organized in networks to find new ways of collaboration

Is the motto, think global, act local placed to work. The Hub12) is an online community where ideas about making local societies sustainable are supported and swapped to offer support and inspiration. Local groups make a global network where the goal is to build collaborative initiatives, share knowledge and experience, providing a lunching pad to realize projects.

Results and Conclusion

It might be stated that community collaboration dramatically reduces consumption, spending and pollution, allowing to approach each other searching for common solutions to shared problems. An important question is left.

Is sharing powerful enough to control climate change?

The answer is controversial. Many jump quickly to say it is not. Enthusiasts immediately say yes.

For sake of objectivity, several conditions must be taken in consideration. But to answer quickly, this kind of question needs the answer to be….

  • YES, this new approach to human development is powerful enough to affect the climate change trends, AND.
  • NO, it is not enough to control climate change on its own. Climate change is so big, it requires the efforts of many or all people, at many levels.

Lets take a look at this in detail

Sceptical people will wonder if sharing has the power to affect climate change. To shed light into this discussion lets review the indirect greenhouse gas emissions which are generated when entities of our society use services and goods recognized by the “World Resources Institute” and the “Carbon Trust”13).

-Extraction and production of purchased materials and fuels -Transport-related activities in vehicles not owned or controlled by you. -Electricity-related activities -Waste generated and its disposal -Outsourced activities -Etcetera

Sharing goods using internet resources reduces the amount of goods consumption. Reduction is the first step in the strategy to curve down consumption and finally pollution.

Sharing and lending stuff for a financial gain is a good strategy against under-use of products. Reusing is the second step towards a zero waste goal.

It seems most or all indirect sources of pollution are reduced when we share, the reduction is even larger if we exercise community collaboration.

If these theoretical assumptions are correct then sharing sets us in a good track towards controlling pollution.

It has been argued that peer-to-peer rental can only work while the population has universal Internet access, the problem is developing countries typically lack of it, therefore sharing will work towards sustainability on developed countries only.

The earlier assumption has some flaws.

Peer-to-peer renting is not the only activity the sharing economy relies on.

Consumption in developed countries is typically higher than that of developing ones14)15)16).

The greenhouse gases production on developed nations is significant17)18), therefore, even if peer-to-peer rental was the only support of the sharing economy (which is not), and if it affected developed countries only, it is powerful enough to affect climate change

This new system has the potential to significantly reduce our carbon footprint. Still, everybody agrees potential is not equal to real actions, this system will not build itself to be everything we need19).

While serious studies and literature about this topic are still scarce, its development is driven by economical needs from society, taking advantage of this momentum to drive this movement towards the best possible direction, must be a conscious, active exercise to yield the best results.


QR Code
QR Code sharing_economy (generated for current page)