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.
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The sharing economy is considered an upcoming socio-economic trend of enormous importance which has the potential to contribute to sustainable development by providing individual well-being, build social capital, and alleviate environmental problems at the same time (Botsman and Rogers, 2010a; Heinrichs, 2013). However, as the sharing economy continues to expand, the exponential growth of companies like Uber or Airbnb has raised many critical voices which not only doubt the positive social and ecological effects, but also denounce severe negative socio-economic impacts (Martin, 2016; Theurl et al., 2015). Moreover, commercial activities within the sharing economy have been described as pseudo-sharing (Belk, 2014a) and “no longer sharing at all” (Eckhardt and Bardhi, 2015) due to the lack of social interactions. The problem is that the sharing economy can only be thoroughly investigated for the implications on sustainable consumption and development as long as a clear conceptual understanding of differences and similarities of activities comprised within this umbrella term is provided. While there have been various categorizations of the sharing economy according to platform orientations (profit or non-profit), market structure (peer to peer or business to consumer (B2C)), or types of shared products (e.g. Andersson et al., 2013; Möhlmann, 2015; Schor, 2014), an overarching framework which brings these concepts together and explains different perspectives is still missing.
The goal of this paper is to build a comprehensive framework that captures the wide range of activities and business models that are considered as part of the sharing economy. In order to do so, a systematic review and a content analysis of literature on the sharing economy are conducted. As a result, a typology is developed that integrates 39 existing systematizations of the sharing economy and related concepts created by other researchers. The four main dimensions of categorization identified are as follows: shared good or service, market structure, market orientation, and industry sector. By distinguishing different types of sharing activities, the framework provides an important foundation for structured investigations and discussions on how the sharing economy contributes to sustainable development. Consequently, scientists, policy makers, and managers can gain a broader picture of this phenomenon, structure and understand current projects, and guide future endeavors with respect to research, business activities, and policy intervention in this field.
The paper is structured as follows. First, it provides insights into the conceptual vagueness of the “sharing economy” and outlines how existent research assesses environmental, social, or economic impacts of sharing activities. Second, it describes the methodological process that was used to build the integrated typology of sharing economy activities. The findings section presents the resulting framework, explaining the established dimensions and categories. Finally, the theoretical and managerial implications are discussed and propositions for future research are made.
The fuzzy concept of the sharing economy
One of the challenges of defining the sharing economy is that the term “sharing” can have various meanings. From a social perspective, sharing can be seen as a community act of giving and receiving or joint ownership (Belk, 2010); from an economic perspective, goods can be shared to make full use of their capacities in order to save costs and resources (Benkler, 2004); and from a communicational perspective, sharing is related to conveying feelings, experiences, ideas, or knowledge (John, 2013a, b).
With the rise of the internet and digital technology, the aforementioned sharing activities have expanded to previously unexpected scales (PwC, 2015). This development was termed the sharing economy (Botsman and Rogers, 2010a) and has now proven to be a socio-economic phenomenon of enormous importance (Martin, 2016; PwC, 2015). While there are different opinions on which interpretation of the term “sharing” is central to the sharing economy (Belk, 2014a; Dredge and Gyimóthy, 2015; Eckhardt and Bardhi, 2015), the number of organizations and business activities that declare themselves or are declared by others to be part of the sharing economy has risen exponentially. Car and ridesharing services (e.g. Zipcar, Uber) and rental platforms for private spare rooms (e.g. Airbnb, Wimdu) are popular examples, and online streaming services (e.g. Netflix, Spotify, iTunes), crowdfunding (e.g. Indiegogo, Kickstarter), resale platforms (e.g. ebay, Craigslist), time banks, or community gardens are considered to be part of the sharing economy (Botsman and Rogers, 2010a; Cohen and Muñoz, 2016; PwC, 2015). Another problem that contributes to the complexity of a clear conceptual understanding of the sharing economy is the existence of numerous overlapping or competing terms. Examples are “collaborative consumption,” “collaborative economy,” “access-based consumption,” or “peer economy” (Bardhi and Eckhardt, 2012; Botsman and Rogers, 2010a; Theurl et al., 2015). As a consequence, the need for clear terminology regarding this dynamic socio-economic phenomenon has been emphasized repeatedly (Dredge and Gyimóthy, 2015; Martin, 2016; Schor, 2014).
Sharing as a potential pathway to sustainable development
Despite ambiguous understandings of which activities are included in the sharing economy, promoters of the concept have emphasized its potential to contribute to a more sustainable development of society (Botsman and Rogers, 2010a; Heinrichs, 2013). Sustainability as a concept that encompasses environmental, social, and economic benefits for society over time (Lozano, 2008) can be promoted by sharing through a more efficient use of resources, the connection of people, and the creation of economic value (Botsman and Rogers, 2010a; Demailly and Novel, 2014). By tapping into idle capacities and using tangible and intangible resources more efficiently, the sharing economy can help to “meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Brundtland, 1987). The implied environmental and economic potentials are leveraged by more frequent interactions between individuals. In this context, sharing can also create and strengthen social cohesion, especially if applied with a community focus, thereby addressing the social dimension of sustainable development (Dempsey et al., 2011).
Consequently, sustainability research has evolved as one of the main focus areas for investigating this topic (Cheng, 2016). Several papers investigate how the sharing economy can contribute to sustainable development: Martin and Shaheen (2011) found that car sharing decreases average greenhouse gas emissions of households in North America. Leismann et al. (2013), although highlighting the risk of rebound effects, discussed reductions in resource use facilitated by textile swapping, tool hiring, or chemical leasing schemes. Focusing on the social aspect of sharing, some studies found social relationships and community building as a strong motivation and outcome of sharing marketplaces (Albinsson and Perera, 2009; Philip et al., 2015), while others have observed the absence of any social bonds in car or bike sharing concepts (Bardhi and Eckhardt, 2012; Light and Miskelly, 2015). With respect to socio-economic impacts, Fang et al. (2016) found that the sharing economy would have a positive net effect on employment in the tourism industry. However, economic value might not only always be created based solely on underutilized assets, but also due to the avoidance of tax, consumer standards, or workers’ rights regulations (Rauch and Schleicher, 2015).
Although a number of investigations on the environmental, social, and economic implications of the sharing economy have been conducted so far, it seems difficult to put these dispersed findings together in a broader picture as long as a clear conceptual understanding of the sharing economy is missing. To contribute to the discussions of the sharing economy with respect to sustainability, the purpose of this paper is to provide a comprehensive typology of sharing economy activities. Instead of focusing on a clear cut definition which classifies activities as either sharing or not sharing economy, we take a broader literature based approach to slice up what can be considered as sharing economy along specific dimensions. The resulting typology is meant to facilitate sustainability research, guide policy advice, and inspire managerial activities by helping to distinguish differences and similarities within the broad range of existent sharing activities.
The first step of the search for existing systematizations within the research of the sharing economy was a systematic database search. The scientific databases Google Scholar, Science Direct, SpringerLink, and Web of Science as well as the search platform EBSCOHost (including the databases Academic Source Complete, Business Source Complete, EconLit with Full Text, E-Journals, and GreenFILE) were searched for relevant scientific publications. These databases were explored for works containing one of the following search terms in their title, abstract, or keywords: “sharing economy,” “share economy,” “collaborative consumption,” and “collaborative economy.” The first round was conducted in December 2015 and included all peer-reviewed scientific articles in English, German, Spanish, or French that were available in the respective databases and investigated the sharing economy or a related concept. From an initial 586 found articles, 101 met the above mentioned inclusion criteria and were used for full text examination.
Based on this initial sample, the ancestry approach (Cooper, 2010) was applied to search referenced documents for additional scientific publications as well as gray literature, such as reports, blog posts, and published master theses, to account for the dynamic development of the concept. Furthermore, websites, blogs, and conference presentations were consulted for additional source material in exploratory search endeavors. Finally, the database research was repeated within the same databases in June 2016, adding “peer economy” and “access economy” to the search terms enumerated above. All documents of scientific or gray literature that defined, systemized, or grouped different sharing economy examples were included in the final sample of analysis.
To systematically assess the documents for typologies, classifications, or systematizations of the sharing economy and related concepts, a qualitative research approach with inductive coding was applied. After the first round of inductive coding, using the content analysis software MAXQDA, four dimensions of analysis were found to occur in several documents: shared good or service, market structure, market orientation, and industry sector. In a second round of coding, documents which previously had been coded to present their own systematization were recoded along these dimensions. After the coding process was completed, the categories of sharing which the documents had introduced within the four dimensions of analysis were combined to develop one comprehensive conceptual typology. The typology was then compared back to the coded data. Throughout the process, conferences and workshops were repeatedly used to present and discuss the framework and its validity (Kvale, 1995).
Findings – a typology of sharing economy activities
In total, 43 documents were found to present one or several systematizations of sharing, the sharing economy, the collaborative economy, collaborative consumption, or of a similar concept. The developed typology of sharing economy activities integrates systematizations from 39 sources. Only four systematizations could not be integrated into the developed framework (Bardhi and Eckhardt, 2012; Bruhn et al., 2015; Kassan and Orsi, 2012; Lamberton and Rose, 2012). While 24 of the 39 integrated systematizations were derived from academic journal articles, 15 documents from gray literature are also covered within the final typology.
A table illustrating the 39 sources from which the integrated systematizations were retrieved, how many types of sharing activities they established, and how many categories for each dimension of the final framework they addressed is available as supplementary material as indicated in the Appendix (Table AI).
Figure 1 presents the typology of sharing economy activities that was developed by merging existent systematizations from the literature. In the following section, the four dimensions of analysis of the integrated typology are described with respect to their origin and the different categories they comprise.
Shared good or service
The first dimension differentiates sharing economy activities according to the good that is being shared. The eight categories of shared goods or services distinguished are as follows: material, products, product service systems (PSS), space, workforce, knowledge and education, as well as information and data.
Botsman and Rogers (2010a, b) divided their concept of collaborative consumption into three major categories: PSS, redistribution markets, and collaborative lifestyles. Based on this framework and works of numerous other authors who not only used similar but also created several additional categories (Haase and Pick, 2015; McDonald, 2014; Schor, 2014; Schor and Fitzmaurice, 2015; Sikorska and Grizelj, 2015; Wosskow, 2014), the category “collaborative lifestyles” was split up into the categories space, money, workforce (i.e. time and applying skills), and knowledge (i.e. education and teaching skills). These shared good or service categories were ordered along a sharing spectrum (Agyeman et al., 2013) from tangible to intangible. Additionally, information and data, as the most intangible good, were placed at one end of the spectrum (Haase and Pick, 2015; Sikorska and Grizelj, 2015) and material, as the most tangible and raw input product, was placed at the other end (Agyeman et al., 2013). In the following, a short description of each category is provided.
The category material was introduced by Agyeman et al. (2013) in their concept of sharing cities and accounts for shared input resources such as water or materials. This category includes recovery and recycling efforts and is based on the idea that natural resources are shared among people, communities, or business actors. This category is not yet common in discussions about the sharing economy. However, the recovery and recycling of used electronic products, the leasing of raw materials, seed banks, and, if energy is considered as a basic input resource, waste heat recovery and consumer to consumer (C2C) energy sharing (Vandebron) can be attributed to this category.
Sharing products on redistribution markets means the recirculation of goods by selling, trading, bartering, swapping, or giving them away for free (Botsman and Rogers, 2010b; Schor, 2014; Stokes et al., 2014). Although selling or giving away a product involves a change of ownership, which is contradictive to the idea that sharing something assumes joint ownership (Belk, 2007), this category is recognized as part of the sharing economy by many (Codagnone et al., 2016; Martin et al., 2015; Martin, 2016; Sikorska and Grizelj, 2015).
When products are shared on the basis of PSS, the focus is on accessing and using something, e.g. a car or a lawnmower, instead of owning it (Botsman and Rogers, 2010b). As the internet has reduced transaction costs drastically, renting or borrowing something has also become more convenient for less costly products and shorter periods of time (Rauch and Schleicher, 2015). As a consequence, numerous internet platforms and business models have been created which focus on this form of consumption (Centenera and Hasan, 2014).
As the short-term rental and borrowing of products has become easier due to the internet, sharing space has been established as a cost and resource efficient practice within the sharing economy. The shared use of workspaces and gardens falls into this category, just as temporarily sharing your apartment with a guest or sharing your free parking space in front of the office (Rauch and Schleicher, 2015; Richardson, 2015).
Money is seen as another good that is exchanged and shared in new ways under the tent of the sharing economy (Botsman and Rogers, 2010b; Owyang, 2014). Not only crowdfunding, crowdfinancing, and C2C lending, but also cooperative banking and digital currencies are seen as part of this category of sharing economy activities (McDonald, 2014; Sikorska and Grizelj, 2015).
Sharing your workforce means providing a service to a person, project, or organization by using your time and skills either in exchange for money or for free. Time banking, where one hour of work of any kind can be exchanged for another hour of work, is an early form of this type of sharing (Schor, 2014). Other examples are peer-to-peer micro-task mediation platforms, such as Taskrabbit, crowdsourcing platforms enabling short-term contracting or collaboration, or ride service platforms, which are enabled by a product but are actually mainly facilitating a service (Codagnone et al., 2016; Schor and Fitzmaurice, 2015).
Closely related yet on a different level from sharing skills and time is the sharing of knowledge and education. While sharing knowledge always involves a certain amount of time, the result is not a service attributed to a specific purpose at a specific time, but the communication, and in this sense also a multiplication, of knowledge. Collaborative learning (Botsman and Rogers, 2010b; Schor, 2014; Stokes et al., 2014) or sharing knowledge (Martin et al., 2015; McDonald, 2014) involve massive open online courses (MOOCs, e.g. Coursera, Udacity, or iversity.org), crowdlearning platforms (e.g. Duolingo or Babbel), or C2C learning platforms (e.g. Skillshare or Udemy) (Pelzer and Burgard, 2014).
The last category captures sharing information and data. Online C2C communication and information platforms, such as Flickr, TripAdvisor, Twitter, Wikipedia, or YouTube, would be found in the range of this category (Belk, 2014a, b), and file sharing platforms and streaming services are based on sharing content as an act of communication and are considered to be part of the sharing economy (Belk, 2014b; Haase and Pick, 2015; PwC, 2015). Other forms where information is contributed and shared in the context of greater projects are wikis, open map applications (Pelzer and Burgard, 2014), or open government initiatives (Sikorska and Grizelj, 2015).
Other categorizations distinguish between sequential sharing (i.e. product changes ownership) and parallel sharing (i.e. original owner still owns the used product) (Winterhalter et al., 2015). While sequential sharing extends the lives and usage of products and applies for the categories products (redistribution) and material, parallel sharing intensifies the usage of a product and applies to PSS and space (Gullstrand Edbring et al., 2016; Scholl et al., 2013, 2015).
Another important distinction is the difference between zero-sum and non-zero- sum sharing. While in zero-sum transactions the sum of gains and losses from all parties always sums up to zero (i.e. what one person gains financially, the other one loses), non-zero-sum transactions are able to end up with more than there was before. Sharing material, products, PSS, time, and money are forms of zero-sum sharing, as they divide and redistribute what is already there. Knowledge and information, however, can be shared on a communicational instead of a fractional basis and are, thus, a non-zero-sum game which can multiply available resources (John, 2013b; Tomalty, 2014).
While the previous section discussed what is shared, the market structure of a specific activity in the sharing economy indicates who is sharing with whom. Within the analyzed documents, five categories were found for differentiating market structures: B2C, C2C (often referred to as peer to peer), consumer to business (C2B), business to business (B2B), and government to consumer (G2C).
While most authors distinguished between B2C and C2C activities within the sharing economy (e.g. Gollnhofer, 2015; Möhlmann, 2015; Schor, 2014), less documents were found to consider B2B transactions (e.g. Choi et al., 2014; Olson and Kemp, 2015), or to specify the category of C2B interactions (Codagnone et al., 2016; Kaup, 2013). The G2C category is not only mentioned in the context of bike-sharing schemes (Scholl et al., 2013), but can also be associated with open government initiatives (Sikorska and Grizelj, 2015) or the provision of public goods (Lamberton and Rose, 2012).
Furthermore, an interesting distinction was made by Rauch and Schleicher (2015), who separated organizations into asset hubs, which were built based on the capability of accumulating resources (i.e. B2C and G2C), and peer-to-peer networks, which focused on providing intermediation services as a platform (i.e. C2C, C2B, and B2B).
The market orientation distinguishes between sharing resources for profit and gaining economic benefits, i.e. oriented toward and following market principles, and acts of sharing which happen on a non-profit basis, i.e. oriented toward building communities (Schor, 2014; Schor and Fitzmaurice, 2015). Furthermore, several authors made a more detailed categorization within this dimension and divided for-profit activities into reciprocal but non-monetary transactions and monetary exchanges (Schnur and Günter, 2014; Zvolska, 2015).
It is important to clarify that this distinction is not made according to the business model of the organization, but by the kind of exchange they facilitate. Although both interpretations of this dimension are possible, the integrated typology presented in this paper uses the latter to account for the majority of presented categorizations (Belk, 2014a; Kindel et al., 2015; Schnur and Günter, 2014). For Belk (2014a) and Schor et al. (2015), this is the dimension of analysis which matters most when trying to understand and conceptualize sharing and the sharing economy.
Until now, types of sharing have been differentiated according to what is being shared, who is sharing with whom, and whether direct reciprocity or monetary compensations were involved in the transaction. What is interesting for business practitioners, however, is to know what is happening in their field of expertise. Whereas scientific publications focused on conceptual differences, more practice-oriented business and policy consultants categorized sharing activities according to the industry sector (Owyang, 2014; PIPAME, 2015; PwC, 2015; Scholl et al., 2015; Stokes et al., 2014). Different industry sectors from the literature were integrated into the six categories food, consumer goods, mobility and transport, hospitality, entertainment and media, as well as energy and utilities.
Discussion and implications
The developed integrated typology of sharing economy activities provides two main theoretical contributions. First, it provides us with a framework to define and structure the sharing economy and related concepts. Second, it offers various dimensions of analyses which can help to systemize and guide research and policy intervention on the sustainability of the sharing economy.
Based on the various systematizations found within our research, the broadest definition of the sharing economy could include activities or platforms which facilitate the sharing of material, products, product services, space, money, workforce, knowledge, or information based on for-profit or non-profit transactions in a variety of different market structures (B2C, C2C, C2B, B2B, and G2C). Consequently, the framework includes social (non-profit), economic (for-profit), and communicational (sharing knowledge and skills or sharing information and data) interpretations of the term “sharing.”
While an extensive scoping review by Codagnone et al. (2016) comes to a similar conclusion with regard to the width of the sharing economy concept, other researchers propose more narrow definitions or offer alternative terms that may better capture the activities comprised in this concept (Belk, 2014a; Eckhardt and Bardhi, 2015). However, more than for determining which activities are to be included in or excluded from the vague concept of the sharing economy, the developed typology may serve to systemize and guide sustainability research and policy intervention in this field.
The potential for saving natural resources, for example, may be considerable when sharing material, redistributing products, or intensifying the usage of products and space through short-term rental. Nevertheless, for the sharing of more intangible goods, such as money, workforce, knowledge, or information, the environmental effect, at least at the short term, might not be that prevalent. At the same time, the availability of money and knowledge for more market participants in developed and developing countries might promote sustainable innovation and non-profit sharing schemes might promote lifestyles of sufficiency (Huber, 2000).
Furthermore, the creation of social capital may be an important part of the sharing economy in C2C non-profit sharing activities (Belk, 2014a), but is obviously less pronounced in for-profit sharing schemes, especially if these are based on a B2C market model (Bardhi and Eckhardt, 2012). Socio-economic consequences of B2C sharing schemes may be mostly assessable because they work within existing markets, while implications of online C2C and C2B models may be less predictable as they tap into legal gray zones (Codagnone et al., 2016). To fill these regulatory gaps is particularly relevant for “sharing” your workforce, which in many cases is simply short-term employment without social security. Close attention should also be paid to finding a balance between activating economic potential and undermining regulatory guidelines when spaces are shared. Furthermore, when analyzing the spatial and temporal perspective of sustainability in the sense of intra- and intergenerational justice (Hahn et al., 2015; Lozano, 2008), knowledge and information sharing platforms can be considered an important tool for global education and long-term welfare, while sharing tangible goods might happen on a more local level. A more extensive list of consequences different types of sharing can have for sustainable development is shown in Table AII that is provided as supplementary material as indicated in the Appendix.
As shown above, differences between sharing economy activities along the presented dimensions of analysis can be used to put forward hypotheses and explain existent findings regarding implications for sustainable development. Furthermore, the integrated typology of sharing economy activities helps to locate and structure existing studies and to guide future research schemes on these issues. Conclusions from already thoroughly investigated types of sharing activities can be transferred to less researched fields based on similarities along the dimensions of analysis found in this study.
Identifying types of sharing concepts and their respective sustainability implications can also support better informed decision making by policy makers. Research can be directed to investigate identified blind spots, necessary infrastructure and education can be funded to leverage the potential of particularly sustainable sharing activities, legislation can be changed to restrict negative consequences, taxation can be adapted to achieve desired socio-economic outcomes, and support or subsidies can be provided to the sharing activities which were found to contribute most to sustainable development of society. To facilitate the usage of the ideas discussed above, a morphological box, as illustrated in Figure 2, could be used to map existent projects and guide future ones in research and policy.
The typology of sharing economy activities presented in this study can be useful for practitioners in several ways. Similar to researchers and policy makers who can use the framework as a morphological box to structure their endeavors, practitioners can use the typology to find new business models and to adapt to recent developments in consumption practices and market behavior. Based on what activities are already covered in their sector or on what has been established in other industry sectors that might also be applied to their fields, entrepreneurs and managers might look for opportunities to start a new business, expand their range of action, or transition their company in new directions.
Sectors which are already being disrupted by sharing business models are mobility and transport (e.g. by car sharing, carpooling, or ridesharing) and the hospitality industry (e.g. by Airbnb). Until now, the energy sector has not attracted much attention of sharing economy analysts. However, as electrical energy generation, transformation, and storage become more and more decentralized, this might be an interesting realm for future sharing activities (Cohen and Muñoz, 2016; Owyang, 2014; Rifkin, 2014).
Moreover, practitioners can use the framework to understand how sharing business models work with respect to input and output resources. It is important to understand that business models and organizations can be involved in sharing multiple categories of goods based on multiple market structures.
Considering the output or consumer perspective shows how industry products and services might develop. The media industry has transitioned from relying on tangible goods which could be bought or rented (redistribution and PSS) toward an industry mainly relying on digitalized content which is distributed in the form of non-zero-sum sharing of information. It is an interesting question whether, or rather how fast, other industries producing, for example, consumer goods will see the same developments when 3D printing becomes widely available and the only thing one needs to access a product is the shared design information and the suited material inputs to print it (Rifkin, 2014).
Furthermore, except from the output side, the typology of sharing also allows us to understand how C2B transactions might change companies from the input or producer perspective. A framework that might be helpful in this context, and which aligns considerably well with the categories of shared goods or services presented in this study, is presented by the International Integrated Reporting Council (2013). The International Integrated Reporting Council distinguishes six factors that enable value creation in companies: natural, manufactured, financial, human, intellectual, as well as social and relationship capital. While in earlier times, when transaction costs were still high, companies had to rely on fixed contracts and internal accumulation of manufactured, human, financial, and intellectual capital, they may now access a continuously growing pool of crowdsourced or shared products, workforce, money, knowledge, or information from their customers or other market participants.
Limitations and future research
Besides the “sharing economy,” there exists a range of competing and overlapping terms and concepts such as “collaborative economy,” “access economy,” “crowdsourcing economy,” “gig economy,” or “on-demand economy.” This study focused on the sharing economy as it was the dominating and most mentioned term within this group (Martin, 2016). However, the acknowledgment and investigation of similarities and differences between these concepts is an important next step in understanding this broad phenomenon and structuring research on the issue. The typology of sharing economy activities presented in this study may be a very helpful tool for approaching this challenge.
Besides the four dimensions presented by the typology of this study, there might be other dimensions which are important for the analysis of sharing economy activities. The market orientation of sharing activities was distinguished according to the nature of the transaction. However, the market orientation of organizations facilitating these transactions is a very important additional element of analysis, especially if the transition toward a society built on collaborative commons (Rifkin, 2014) or toward a post-growth economy is investigated (Theurl et al., 2015). It might have essential implications for local sustainable development if platforms are owned and dominated by global for-profit enterprises, such as Uber or Airbnb, or if decentralized local platforms which are owned and administered by the people of a community are facilitating the fulfillment of needs and the extraction of values from underutilized assets (Theurl et al., 2015). This should be reflected in another dimension of analysis which differentiates between decentralized local (mostly non-profit) and centralized global (mostly for-profit) organizations. Furthermore, the distinction between online and offline organizations and services might contribute another very important dimension to the discussion on sharing economy practices.
This study integrated existent systematizations and understandings of the sharing economy to form one comprehensive typology of sharing economy activities. The four dimensions of distinction that were found were shared good or service, market structure, market orientation, and industry sector. On a theoretical level, the study provides a framework and starting point for a more systematic comparison of different sharing practices in the context of sustainability research. It was discussed how the different dimensions of the framework might be used to explain findings and structure research with regard to sustainability. Moreover, fields for policy intervention were identified and a morphological box as a practical tool for researchers and policy makers was illustrated. Finally, on a managerial level, the typology can help practitioners to identify and understand business models within the sharing economy from a consumer and a producer perspective.
Supplementary data associated with this paper can be found under the following link: http://tud.de/wiwi/sharing-economy
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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.