The sharing economy and its implications for sustainable value chains

Ke Rong, Jialun Hu, Yuge Ma, Ming Lim, Yang Liu, Chao Lu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The sharing economy has become a popular term based on new
business models including bike sharing (Mobike and OfO), sharing ac-
commodations (Airbnb), and sharing automotive vehicular mobility
(Uber and Didi) (Parente et al., 2017). It represents a new business
model in which the access to goods, services, spaces, and other assets
can be shared or obtained. With ICT (information and communication
technology) sector support, companies can construct online platforms
to increase connectivity between service providers and users. Sharing
economy commerce is estimated to grow from 14 billion in 2014–335
billion USD in 2025 (Yaraghi and Ravi, 2017).
The sharing economy can be a solution to a variety of grand chal-
lenges, including societal inequality, economical improvement, and
especially environmental issues. It alleviates environmental problems
as it allows idle assets to gain more usage and generates more frequent
economic activity (Belk, 2014). Because, the sharing economy asso-
ciated business model innovations (Witjes and Lozano, 2016) could
reduce the demand for new goods, the construction of new facilities,
and maximize product utilization rate (Zervas et al., 2017). Reduced
consumer resource consumption is a major contribution of the sharing
economy towards the sustainability agenda, although the total impact is
still debated in the literature. Besides, cities are natural incubators for
new sharing models and organizations due to high population densities
and reliable ICT infrastructure. It could bring about social benefits such
as increased social ties and social cohesion. The sharing economy will
also influence the production side of commerce through building cap-
abilities through shared manufacturing access. However, there is not
yet clear empirical evidence on these claims, especially when con-
sidering the broader value chain. Hence, it is thus necessary to analyze
all the impacts that are set in motion in the entire systems as a result of
the new sharing practice.
Sharing economy consumers jointly share and access products and
services without owning them (Parente et al., 2017). Advanced ICT
technologies and data analytics capability make it possible for the firms
to match the demand and supply effi ciently. For example, the Chinese
bike sharing company Mobike established a fully station-less bicycle-
sharing system to allow customers to pick up and leave a bike at any
legal parking destination at any time. Specially designed smart locks
allow for sharing purposes, which is regarded as a born sharing model.
When a born sharing model (access-based sharing) becomes so con-
venient that it has become the mainstream, the traditional route of a
market based on selling and renting is replaced by accessing.
The rise of the sharing economy and sharing enterprises on the
demand side drives producers to make or design products or services
more amenable to sharing. Furthermore, with B2B (business-to-busi-
ness) sharing emerging such as cloud computing services, the sharing
economy practices on the supply side should also be explored in order
to better understand its impact on the value chain. In short, the emer-
gence of B2C and B2B sharing economy influences not only the demand
side, but the broader value chain.
However, there is not yet much exploration of the impact of sharing
economy on the sustainability of value chains, as customer consump-
tion is only one part of it. Along with growth of sharing economy ac-
tivities and supporting ICT, its impact various parts of the value chain
becomes evident, including production (cloud manufacturing), logis-
tics, product design, and supplier management. Currently, the sharing
economy is supported by augmented IT technology including IoT
(Internet of Things) and Blockchain. There is unclear impact and effects
of evolving technologies (e.g., 3D printing, smart manufacturing, and
artificial intelligence) on the sharing economy a value chain.
Original languageEnglish
Article number0921-3449
Pages (from-to)188-189
Number of pages2
JournalResources, Conservation and Recycling
Volume130
Early online date7 Dec 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018

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