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Eight impacts of the digital sharing economy on resource consumption

Reference Type: 

Journal Article

Pouri, Maria J. 2021. “Eight Impacts of the Digital Sharing Economy on Resource Consumption.” Resources, Conservation and Recycling 168 (May): 105434.

Digital platforms have enabled huge efficiency in coordinating sharing practices among a large number of users. The proliferation of sharing platforms has formed a phenomenon often referred to albeit not unanimously – as ‘the sharing economy’ or, more precisely, ‘the Digital Sharing Economy (DSE)’1. What makes the DSE special is its ability to enhance access to a wide variety of material and immaterial resources within large and spatially distributed communities of consumers; a feature that could not exist in traditional, small-scale sharing. This characteristic has been known as the enabling role of digital Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in transforming sharing practices and scaling up sharing networks. Such extensive changes brought by digital advancements can raise a number of important questions concerning sustainability (Salomon and Mokhtarian, 2008), as changes often come along with both opportunities and risks. From a sustainability perspective, an evident impact of sharing resources is improved efficiency in consumption. Through sharing, the utilization of a resource increases to serve more demand, which translates to an optimization effect. Nevertheless, it is possible that increased efficiency is followed by unwanted impacts such as rebound effects. Therefore, to develop a critical perspective, efforts should be directed towards understanding and analyzing both the potential positive and negative impacts of the shared consumption promoted by digital platforms. Such analysis can be based on two major parts: First, identifying the type of the resource that is shared; second, investigating how sharing that resource can affect the sustainability of its consumption and other consumption patterns that it may promote.

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