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Mapping the sharing economy for sustainability research

Frederik Plewnia (Faculty of Business and Economics,Technische Universität Dresden, Dresden, Germany)
Edeltraud Guenther (Faculty of Business and Economics,Technische Universität Dresden, Dresden, Germany)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Publication date: 12 March 2018



In order to guide sustainability research on the sharing economy, the purpose of this paper is to develop a comprehensive framework that captures the wide range of activities and business models that are considered to be part of the sharing economy.


Based on a systematic literature review and a content analysis, existing typologies are identified and analyzed for their conceptual intersections. Finally, categorizations from 43 documents are integrated into one framework.


Four main dimensions are identified as being used in different contexts to characterize sharing systems and were combined to form one comprehensive typology: shared good or service, market structure, market orientation, and industry sector.


The proposed typology is able to distinguish sharing activities based on their similarities and differences. Social, economic, and communicational avenues for the term “sharing” are merged into a conceptual foundation of the sharing economy. This enables researchers, practitioners, and policy makers to position their projects in the broad field of sharing. By discussing inherent tensions with regard to sustainability of the sharing economy, the offered categorizations can help to guide future research and policy intervention. Last but not least, professional managers should find valuable ideas for new business models.



The authors are very thankful for the vivid discussions and feedback given within the regular colloquia of the Boysen-TU Dresden-graduate school and within the research seminars at the faculty of business of the TU Dresden. Furthermore, the authors express their thanks for the valuable comments on earlier version of this paper received from participants of the Group for Research on Organizations and the Natural Environment (GRONEN) research workshop in Hamburg, 2016, from conference participants of the sustainability management (NAMA) conference in Dresden, 2016, and from the anonymous reviewers of the journal review process.


Plewnia, F. and Guenther, E. (2018), "Mapping the sharing economy for sustainability research", Management Decision, Vol. 56 No. 3, pp. 570-583.



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