Capitalism with a conscience

Buy, consume, dispose – such is the widely accepted framework that we consumers accept and operate within.  But turning this framework on its head is a steadily growing, global movement known as “collaborative consumption”.


Also known as the “sharing economy”, a business operating within this movement does not sell a product or service, but instead provides a framework that allows mutually beneficial “sharing” or “exchanging” to take place among individuals.  Collaborative consumption businesses make use of the increased connectivity provided by the online world, creating opportunities between people that would otherwise have been missed or wasted.

At its heart, collaborative consumption takes what we might call excess inventory – a spare room, an unused car, idle capital – and provides a return for it. That’s clearly a very disruptive idea. 


The good news for business owners is that the collaborative consumption model and the traditional buy/sell model don’t have to be mutually exclusive.  A number of traditional business owners have adopted the concept as part over their overall business, a move that has increased their ‘eco-cred’ and provided a new avenue for continuous engagement with customers.


As environmental awareness grows, consumers are increasingly conscious of the impact of creating new products and services. Collaborative consumption reduces waste and encourages the reuse of items rather than the creation of new ones. 


Even when people don’t buy into the philosophy of collaborative consumption, the insights transferable to a broader productivity debate are valuable. Above all, the main reason this movement will succeed is because of the opportunity to save money. Quite simply, it allows you to get something you want more cheaply. 


Suppose you are presented with two services.  The first option is better for the environment, connects you with real people and costs you less.  The second option is the opposite… which would you choose?


This is an abridged version of an article by Hayley Morris first published on ANZ BlueNotes. Read the full text here.