Sharing economy: Why buy when you can share?

28 October 2020, By Canela

The collaborative economy is here to stay. It all started as an alternative movement and has grown to become a multimillion-worth business and a trend that is changing the way we consume products and services. Spain leads the ‘collaborative’ trend in the European Union, with several start-ups that have reached the unicorn level. Would you like to better understand this phenomenon and how it’s transforming different sectors?


What is collaborative economy?

Although it is also known as “collaborative consumption”, “shared economy” or “exchange economy”, the term “collaborative economy” was devised in 2008 by Harvard Professor Lawrence Lessig, to whom we also owe the creation of Creative Commons licenses. This specialist in computer law defines the collaborative economy as “the collaborative consumption carried out through the activities of sharing, exchanging and renting resources without owning the goods or assets”. His initial vision was based on barter (he explains it in detail here), although companies soon started introducing money which gave way to the collaborative economy as we know it today.

And the truth is that the idea has been very successful from the beginning: in a world concerned about the depletion of natural resources and environmental pollution, more and more people prefer to rent things they need instead of buying them and then disposing of them.

It is estimated that the collaborative economy will have a turnover of more than 30,000 million dollars worldwide this year and that in 2025 this figure could be multiplied by ten. Large companies such as AirBNB and Uber, have revolutionized the accommodation and transport sector respectively, and so have had an important influence on this boom. Aside from these, there are many more platforms, some of them lesser-known, but with very interesting proposals across different areas; following this list you can see a complete list.

With the pandemic, some collaborative companies have had to introduce or intensify hygienic measures when sharing services. Despite the complexity of the situation, some of them are in a very positive position, as is the case of the shared mobility sector, which includes motosharing or carsharing. They are a welcome alternative for those who prefer to avoid public transport in order to be less exposed to the virus.

Collaborative economy in Spain

There are nearly 400 collaborative economy companies operating in Spain, more than in any other country within the European Union, and 57% of Spaniards have used some of the services of this type. Associations such as Sharing Spain gather companies from the sector, some of them already valued in millions and with their businesses expanded to other countries.

We find Spanish collaborative platforms in very diverse sectors. Some are dedicated to mobility, such as Cabify and eCooltra; others to food delivery, such as Glovo; and others to the real estate sector, such as HousingAnywhere. Among others, there are also companies committed to renewable energy, such as Fundeen.

The downside of the collaborative economy

As we can see, the number and variety of collaborative economy companies in Spain is increasing. However, not all business models work. Some platforms that seemed promising have vanished, like Relendo, which allowed the peer-to-peer rental of tools, photo and video cameras, sound equipment.

In other cases, the emergence of collaborative economy companies has caused controversy. For example, certain groups such as hoteliers or taxi drivers continue to oppose tourist rental and private cars platforms and accuse them of being unfair competition. There are also business models questioned for promoting job precariousness, as in the case of riders (autonomous transporters or gig workers) who use platforms such as Glovo or Deliveroo.

However, the expansion of the collaborative economy seems unstoppable. If we know how to focus it on sustainability and regulate it properly, this approach can contribute to changing and putting an end to the current “buy and throw” mindset and culture.

Do you use any of these collaborative economy services? Share your thoughts on social media!