The sharing economy and its implications for sustainable value chains

Ke Rong, Jing Hu, Yinghua Ma, Ming Lim, Yang Liu, C. Lu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The sharing economy has become a popular term based on new business models including bike sharing (Mobike and OfO), sharing accommodations (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 challenges, 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 associated 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 capabilities through shared manufacturing access. However, there is not yet clear empirical evidence on these claims, especially when considering 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 efficiently. 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 convenient 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-business) 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 emergence 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 consumption is only one part of it. Along with growth of sharing economy activities and supporting ICT, its impact various parts of the value chain becomes evident, including production (cloud manufacturing), logistics, 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
Early online date7 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018


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