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The consumer and environmental potential of the sharing economy: motives, barriers and rebound effects

Applicant Binder Claudia
Number 185594
Funding scheme NRP 73 Sustainable Economy
Research institution Institut d'ingénierie de l'environnement EPFL - ENAC - IIE
Institution of higher education EPF Lausanne - EPFL
Main discipline Other disciplines of Environmental Sciences
Start/End 01.05.2019 - 31.08.2022
Approved amount 361'309.00
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All Disciplines (3)

Discipline
Other disciplines of Environmental Sciences
Economics
Applied psychology

Keywords (7)

environmental impact; peer-to-peer sharing; sharing economy; sustainable consumption; experiments; consumer behavior; rebound effect

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
Wenig genutzte Produkte werden vermehrt mit anderen Menschen über Sharing Plattformen geteilt. Obwohl dadurch eine Reduktion der Umweltbelastung erwartet wird, ist unklar, inwieweit die Verwendung des gesparten oder gewonnen Geldes schlussendlich sogar zu höherem Ressourcenkonsum führt.
Lay summary

Hintergrund

Konkrete Massnahmen um Rebound Effekte zu minimieren, können sowohl von der Politik als auch von Plattformbetreibern selbst ausgehen. Um diese effektiv zu gestalten, benötigen wir ein besseres Verständnis darüber wie menschliches Verhalten funktioniert und verändert werden kann. Aktuell gibt es wenig empirisch gesicherte Erkenntnisse, welche sich mit den Besonderheiten des P2P Sharings beschäftigen.

Ziel

Ziel des Projektes ist es, erstens die Nutzenden der Plattformen besser zu verstehen. Wir analysieren (i) warum sie sich am P2P Sharing beteiligen, (ii) wie sie das gewonnene oder gesparte Geld einsetzen; (iii) und ob sie sich des potenziellen Rebound Effektes bewusst sind. In einem zweiten Schritt analysieren wir die Umweltauswirkung des Rebound Effektes. Drittens, entwickeln und testen wir mit unseren Partnern mögliche Alternativen, um dem Rebound Effekt entgegen zu wirken.

Bedeutung

Unser Projekt wird Erkenntnisse für drei Zielgruppen liefern:

  1. Besitzende von Sharing Plattform werden besser verstehen wie Werte und Motive das Teilverhalten von Kundinnen und Kunden beeinflussen.
  2. Der Gesellschaft werden konkrete Möglichkeiten aufgezeigt wie negative Umwelteffekte des Teilens durch die Plattformen selbst und gezielte Politikmassnahmen reduziert werden können.
  3. Für die Politik werden wir in realen Feldexperimenten Evidenz generieren, wie die Nachhaltigkeit der Sharing Economy noch weiter gefördert werden kann.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 22.07.2019

Lay Summary (French)

Lead
Les plateformes de partage sont de plus en plus fréquentées pour mettre en commun des biens "sous-utilisés". Cette pratique devrait réduire l'empreinte environnementale, mais il reste à élucider si l'argent ainsi économisé ou gagné ne pourrait pas paradoxalement mener à une consommation accrue des ressources.
Lay summary

Contexte

Des mesures concrètes en vue de minimiser les effets rebond peuvent être mises en œuvre aussi bien par la politique que par les opérateurs de plateformes. Pour les rendre efficaces et pouvoir changer le comportement des gens, nous devons mieux comprendre leur façon de fonctionner. A l'heure actuelle, il n'existe que peu de connaissances étayées empiriquement qui traitent des particularités du partage P2P.

Objectif

Le projet cherche d’abord à mieux comprendre les usagers et les usagères de ces plateformes. Nous analysons (i) les raisons pour lesquelles ces personnes utilisent les plateformes de partage P2P, (ii) de quelle manière elles emploient l'argent ainsi gagné ou économisé; (iii) et si elles ont conscience de potentiels effets rebond. En second lieu, nous examinons l'impact environnemental de ces effets. Enfin, nous développons et testons des options possibles avec nos partenaires afin de minimiser cet effet rebond.

Importance

Notre projet va fournir des résultats pour trois groupes cibles:

  1. Les propriétaires de plateformes de partage comprendront mieux comment les valeurs et motivations influencent le comportement de partage de leur clientèle.
  2. Nous présenterons à la société des moyens concrets visant à réduire les effets environnementaux négatifs du partage par le biais des plateformes elles-mêmes et de mesures politiques ciblées.
  3. A travers des expériences réelles sur le terrain, nous générerons des données probantes à l'intention des cercles politiques sur la manière de soutenir encore davantage la durabilité de l'économie de partage.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 22.07.2019

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
Consumers are increasingly using dedicated platforms to share with others their underutilised products. While this is expected to reduce the environmental impact, it is unclear to what degree the use of savings or earnings from the platforms might increase resource use.
Lay summary

Background

Actions to minimise rebound effects can be initiated by policy-makers or by the platform providers themselves. To ensure their effectiveness, however, we need to have a better understanding of how human behaviour functions and how it can be changed. Only a small amount of empirically verified knowledge about P2P sharing has been acquired until now.

Aim

This project aims first at better understanding sharing platforms users. We analyse (i) why they take part in P2P sharing, (ii) how they spend the money they have earned or saved; (iii) and if they are aware of potential rebound effects. In a second phase, we will estimate the environmental impacts of rebound effects. Third, we will develop and test possible alternatives with our partners in order to counter the rebound effect.

Relevance

Our project provides key insights for three target groups:

  1. For platform owners, our results will provide information on the values and motives that influence the sharing behaviour of their customers.
  2. For society, our project will highlight ways in which the negative environmental effects of sharing can be minimised by the platform providers themselves as well as through targeted policy measures.
  3. For policy-makers, we will collect evidence in field experiments to provide a basis for policy decisions to promote a sustainable sharing economy.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 22.07.2019

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Project partner

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
74th Discussion Forum on Life Cycle Assessment (DF LCA) Talk given at a conference How life cycle–based science and practice support the transition towards a sustainable economy 29.06.2020 Wädenswil, Switzerland Ritzén Sofia;
Third NRP 73 Conference Poster Why do consumers engage in the sharing economy? Preliminary results from a systematic literature review 13.02.2020 Murten , Switzerland Binder Claudia; Huynh Tin; Merino-Saum Albert;


Knowledge transfer events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Date Place Persons involved
“Shaping a Sustainable Digital World” Workshop 02.12.2020 Bern, Switzerland Huynh Tin;


Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Media relations: radio, television Re:Share project and the importance of rebound effects in transitioning processes RTS Western Switzerland 2021
Media relations: print media, online media Wieso der Sharing-Boom in Bern auch Grenzen kennt Der Bund German-speaking Switzerland 2021

Abstract

The sharing economy is a relative new phenomenon in which consumers grant each other temporary access to “underutilized” physical assets, possibly for money, through online market places. Despite of its financial promises and environmental expectations, fundamental aspects remain unclear. First, the potential for sharing other types of assets beyond accommodation and motorized mobility has not been largely investigated. Second, although the environmental benefits of sharing assets are often taken for granted, there are reasons to believe that rebound effects may counteract such benefits. There is the need to understand the magnitude of the re-spending effect and the substitution effect. Finally, if the rebound effects are significant (as first empirical evidence suggests), it is unclear what could be mechanisms for sharing platforms and policies to minimize the rebound effects of sharing.The proposed project aims at providing a new holistic perspective on the sharing economy, focusing on the analysis of peer to peer (P2P) sharing. In particular it aims to (i) investigate the consumer potential (i.e. consumer acting as a taker or provider in P2P sharing); (ii) estimate the magnitude and environmental impacts of rebounds emanating from re-spending and substitution effects; and (iii) develop strategies and mechanisms to minimize the potential rebound effects. We pursue a transdisciplinary approach, working on the one hand in an interdisciplinary team composed of experts from the fields of economics, environmental engineering, social sciences, and social-ecological-technical systems research. On the other hand, we work in close cooperation with our collaboration partners, who will roll-out experiments for minimizing the rebound effects, fostering thereafter the implementation of measures. Methods applied in this project are (i) interviews, surveys on consumer behavior, and structural equation modelling for understanding motives and barriers for change; (ii) life cycle assessment and real world data for estimating the environmental impacts of rebound effects, and (iii) online and field experiments for developing and exploring the potential of strategies and mechanisms to minimize rebound effects. We collect real world data particularly in Sweden and Switzerland, but also in other European countries to study similarities and potential differences. Our project provides scientific innovation in theory, systemic and quantitative understanding of rebound effects. As such we develop (i) a theoretical framework for analyzing sharing behaviors; (ii) quantify the full environmental behavioral effect of P2P sharing for a large number of products; (iii) develop a systemic understanding of rebound effects related to private consumers with different sharing motives, intention and behaviors; and (iv) explore how deep-level and surface level mechanism are able to change the behavior of private sharers towards minimizing the rebound effect. Swiss and Swedish sharing platforms are selected as case studies for the investigation (see 1.3.4). We selected three very different types of sharing platforms, Pumpipumpe, Sharely and Hygglo, which cover the non-profit as well as the profit sector. They have been pioneers among the sharing platforms in Switzerland and Sweden and thus test beds of most new products and innovations. Furthermore, our project has practical significance providing not only systemic knowledge, but also goal and transformation knowledge. The involvement of our collaboration partners is very important to the project’s success as they ensure the validity of the study design and hence the relevance of the results. In addition, we aim at providing information to platform and city associations (e.g., Sharecon; Sharing cities Sweden); diverse zero waste and innovation related entities (e.g., The ZeroWaste Switzerland; Chamber of Social and Solidarity Economy; Impact hubs in Switzerland; and Swedish life cycle center).
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