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Is the sharing economy a hippy pipedream?

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Tue, 4 Dec 2012 09:42 PM
Author: Benita Matofska
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Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Benita Matofska is founder and chief sharer of The People Who Share. The views expressed are her own.

There’s nothing fluffy about sharing. When you consider that by 2050 an additional 3 billion people will join us on a planet of finite resources, that’s 9 billion people who will need to be fed, clothed and sustained. The perfect storm is brewing and we’re going to need to share to survive.

The growth of the emerging Sharing Economy is creating a new paradigm for how the world could operate - socially, economically and environmentally. It’s providing a simple solution to our most complex global problems.

Businesses are now reshaping their business models by incorporating sharing as part of their business or putting it central to their business strategy.  Globally the sharing economy is now valued at 310 billion pounds ($499 billion) and in the UK 22.4 billion pounds.

When you consider that each day more than 40,000 people die from lack of access to the basic necessities – food, shelter, water yet on the other side of the world we hoard and consume - it’s clear that sharing is about survival and there’s nothing hippy about that. We need to wake up to the reality that when demand outweighs supply, it’s Share or Die as Neal Gorenflo, Founder of Shareable reveals in his recent book.

The recent Global Sharing Day reached over 60 million people in 147 countries and in the West it’s becoming unfashionable to own goods and resources, when you can rent, borrow and share them.We’ve reached "peak ownership".

This exponentially growing movement is being led by consumers and businesses who are looking for a better life and a long-term sustainable future.  These leaders are shaping our economy by looking at how resources can be used completely differently, unlocking idling capacity, waste, surplus and redirecting it to those who need it.

Still think this is a hippy phenomenon? Here’s what sharing does:

Sharing Feeds: last year the UK charity FareShare delivered 9 million meals worth of food that would otherwise have gone to landfill to those living in food poverty in the UK.

Sharing Clothes: 500,000 tonnes of clothing are sent to landfill each year. High street retailer Marks & Spencer have so far diverted 2 million items of clothing from landfill and raised £1.5 million for Oxfam via their Shwopping campaign.

Sharing Educates: Through sharing resources, Tutudesk have distributed over 1 million portable school desks to children in Sub Saharan Africa who would otherwise not have access to education.

Sharing Employs: Businesses are now reshaping their economic models by incorporating sharing as part of their business or are using sharing as a central part of their business proposition.

Companies like Zipcar whose membership has grown 8 fold since 2006 and now has 760,000 registered users globally, enables people to share transport costs, reducing carbon and reducing impact on our diminishing resources.

Airbnb, recently valued at $1.3 billion enables people to make and save money by sharing their properties, giving people access to cheaper and easier travel. In 2011, $400 million was invested in these new business models and the 2012 figures are likely to be much higher.

For the ordinary citizen, sharing is a way to make and save money. I personally save £20,000 a year through sharing. From clothes swapping to childcare sharing and house swapping for our family holiday, the sharing of resources is not only necessary in tough economic times but it’s the activity that will solve our resource crisis.

With 1.6 trillion worth of unused items in homes in the developed world, mountains of perfectly good food still going to landfill and many buildings standing empty, sharing can provide a simple solution to our complex global crisis.

There’s nothing hippy about that.

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