European Sharing Economy Coalition
Euro Freelancers launched the European Sharing Economy Coalition (EURO-SHE) at a public hearing in the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) – one of the advisory bodies of the European Commission – on 25 September 2013. The event was hosted by Mr Bernardo Hernández Bataller, the Rapporteur of the Collaborative Consumption Opinion of the EESC.
The launch of the European Sharing Economy Coalition followed an invitation from the European Commission to discuss the importance of tackling the Sharing Economy model for the European Union.
EU and The Sharing Economy
The Sharing Economy and the EU have common goals: increase resource efficiency, create jobs and prosperity, build community participation and advance social innovation. The European Sharing Economy Coalition sees this as a great opportunity to combine efforts around joint priorities and mainstream a stronger, more resilient Europe in view of meeting the EU2020 objectives.
The Coalition’s main purpose is to shape a critical mass that speaks with a single voice, making the case for European policies that place a greater emphasis on sharing and collaboration, as the driving force behind a more prosperous, sustainable and competitive European economy.
The Coalition will explore synergies with EU policies and programmes and how EU decision makers and other stakeholders can work together to lay the necessary policy framework conditions and create the enabling environment for the Sharing Economy to be a success for Member States, businesses, consumers and local communities in the EU.
The Coalition will aim to engineer public/private partnerships among the following European stakeholders:
With a focus on readily available scalable solutions and best practice examples, the Coalition's mission is to mature policies, markets and sectors in Europe for the Sharing Economy to become mainstream. Our message is simple: we want a framework for the Sharing Economy to prosper in Europe now!
The European Sharing Economy Coalition is the first multi-stakeholder European network to raise a united voice, promote and monitor progress towards EU and national policy that:
Mainstream the Sharing Economy
By campaigning to raise awareness, improve visibility and build capacity of community and policy leaders.
Sustain the Sharing Economy
By advocating for fair and sensible European regulations, ensuring the Sharing Economy becomes a political priority in the EU.
Scale up the Sharing Economy
By promoting leadership and best practice exchange, aiming towards scalability and transferability in the EU.
Finance the Sharing Economy
By raising EU funding to kick start relevant pilot projects and platforms all over Europe, above all in cities.
Activities and Value Proposition
The European Sharing Economy Coalition helps businesses and governments in Europe to understand and harness the potential of the Sharing Economy through regulatory advocacy and strategic advisory services. The European Sharing Economy Coalition is based on the assumption that it can achieve more widespread reach within the EU and accomplish its objectives beyond the scope of any single national organisation and company active in the Sharing Economy space. The European Sharing Economy Coalition will deliver concrete actions, which can be implemented in the short-term and have high local impact. It will build on on-going EU programmes, priorities and best practice examples to be scaled-up.
The needed transformation of the EU economy will not take place until a strong alliance of private, public and civil society players begins to work together. The narrative of the Sharing Economy is typically framed as a bottom-up, grassroots action. All of the proliferating Sharing Economy organisations in Europe are focused on a small piece of a much larger puzzle and considerable change will never come from a disconnected group and a fragmented start-up scene along the value chain. However, if these organisations join forces to share a compelling agenda, an inspiring long-term vision and coordinate their EU policy actions, they could pave the way for the top-down regulatory improvement needed to move the Sharing Economy from niche to mainstream.
The European Sharing Economy Coalition has the following core objectives matched with specific activities that will attempt to achieve them:
1. MAINSTREAM (Through Awareness Raising)
- To utilise social media, public relations and marketing to build the foundation for public support that the Sharing Economy is good for the EU, for businesses and for consumers.
- To change consumer habits and cultural barriers, scaling up the Sharing Economy from young people and urban areas to a viable alternative for everyone in Europe.
- To commission studies, market research, surveys and interviews on the Sharing Economy in Europe.
2. SUSTAIN (Through Advocacy)
- To organise public debates and bilateral meetings with key European, national and other decision makers, tailoring to them the key messages of the Sharing Economy.
- To track and influence EU and Member States policies with a potential impact on sharing business models, including taxation, insurance, labour, licensing, health and safety, consumer protection, environment, certification, data privacy, patents, IPR, entrepreneurship etc and recommend appropriate actions.
- To assist in the ongoing implementation of the EU Commission Sustainable Consumption and Production Action Plan (DG ENVI), the Resource Efficiency Roadmap (DG ENVI), the Social Innovation Europe Initiative and Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan (DG ENTR), the Digital Agenda for Europe (DG CNECT), the European Innovation Partnership on Smart Cities (DG RTD), the New European Consumers Agenda (DG SANCO), the E-Money Directive (DG MARKT), the Financial Instruments Directive (DG MARKT) and other related thematic strategies.
- To draft position papers, participate in EU Commission consultations, write petitions and open letters to the European Parliament, submit policy recommendations, legislative amendments and take a seat in relevant EU platforms.
3. SCALE UP (Through Transferability)
- To unite and organise the community of Sharing Economy consumers, providers and cooperatives in Europe in cooperation with existing national platforms.
- To provide a forum for collective knowledge exchange and foster cooperation between Sharing Economy practitioners in different EU sectors and Member States.
- To facilitate the transferability and scalability of best practice solutions on the Sharing Economy among EU Member States.
4. INVEST (Through EU Fund Raising)
- To kick start pilot initiatives, above all in cities, participate in relevant projects and raise EU funding for promoters of the Sharing Economy.
- To assist the EU Commission to design appropriate funding lines for the Sharing Economy under the new EU Multiannual Financial Framework Program 2014-2020.
- To set up public/private partnerships between Sharing Economy platforms and local governments.
A draft Activity Plan of the Coalition for 2014 is available upon request.
The European Sharing Economy Coalition will be shaped as a multi-stakeholder open platform to bring together companies, NGOs, academia, local authorities and consumer groups, equally driving an ambitious agenda. It aspires to become an independent and non-partisan resource for Members of European Parliament, Commission officials, Council Presidencies and other EU bodies and stakeholders looking for information, advice and feedback on the Sharing Economy. It will position itself to key European decision-makers as a credible and trusted expert and representative of the Sharing Economy sector in Europe. It will also seek to inform the European audience by hosting events, building capacity and providing educational materials and tools so that more community leaders at Member State level can make the Sharing Economy thrive.
The European Sharing Economy Coalition will set up a Steering Committee to provide leadership and guide long-term goals and the strategies to achieve them. The Steering Committee defines the Coalition strategic priorities and drives its main activities according to a yearly activity plan.
A monitoring system will evaluate progress and keep activities on track. Decisions of the European Sharing Economy Coalition will be made by consensus among its members and will be presented as such to the EU decision makers in various key fora to obtain political support and inform policy priorities.
Working groups and a combination of virtual and physical meetings will serve as the main vehicle for European Sharing Economy Coalition members to exchange information, discuss specific topics, sectoral policies and develop and implement its activities in coordination with the Steering Committee. The European Sharing Economy Coalition will monitor and inform members, providing early warning of emerging issues in the field of all Sharing Economy related policies. It will give members an opportunity to anticipate, mitigate and prepare for legislative developments while building legitimacy through policy engagement.
The Coalition will aim to focus on a few single verticals before becoming a horizontal platform, as it is believed that limiting scope to a few dimensions will increase chances of gaining wider members' adoption. Discussions are ongoing on the following Sharing Economy sectors: housing, transportation, jobs, food and finance.
Business Model and Membership
The Coalition will be organised around a freemium business model. Firstly, the Coalition will aim to obtain EU funding to finance its operations. In kind contributions (time, resources, facilities etc) from members/partners will build up the internal resources of the Coalition. The Coalition will not overlap its members/partners activities at the national level, rather complement them. Facilitating cooperation among members, kick starting joint actions and connecting the dots across Europe will be the main drivers of the Coalition.
Initially, the European Sharing Economy Coalition will aim to collect expressions of interest and establish informal partnerships with "knowledge partners", the most active networks and organisations in the Sharing Economy space in Europe. More formal collaborations with members will be established once there will be an opportunity to kick start joint specific projects. [A draft 2014 Activity Plan is available at request].
As future member, each participant (a) defines an individual voluntary commitment, (b) endorses the Coalition manifesto and (c) chooses from the yearly activity plan, the activities where it can contribute best. Members enjoy the following benefits:
- Joint communication, PR activities and projects groundwork
- A platform for aligning efforts with other partners in the sector, both private and public
- Driving demand for Sharing Economy products and services
- Europe-wide promotion as a frontrunner in the Sharing Economy space
- Profiling existing best practice scalable solutions and national platforms
The European Sharing Economy Coalition has been incubated with the support of European Partners for the Environment. Euro Freelancers will be the facilitator of the Coalition, holding ad interim its secretariat. Euro Freelancers will coordinate and assist in developing joint advocacy strategies, policy positions, project planning and fundraising.
The Sharing Economy
The Sharing Economy (otherwise known as collaborative economy or collaborative consumption) refers to economic and social systems that enable shared access to goods, services, data and talent as opposed to ownership. These systems take a variety of forms but all leverage information technology and peer-to-peer communities to empower individuals with the distribution, sharing and reuse of excess capacity and underutilised assets (i.e. low frequency of use) in goods and services.
In 2010, the Sharing Economy was named one of TIME Magazine's 10 ideas that will change the world as the consumer peer-to-peer rental market is now reaching $26 billion. The concept has been championed by Rachel Botsman in her book What's Mine Is Yours, describing collaborative consumption as "a new socio-economic trend promising a revolution in the way we consume". People of all ages became empowered not just to be consumers, but also providers through the explosion of peer-to-peer commerce. In so doing, they were able to unlock the idling capacity – the untapped social, economic and environmental value of underutilised assets – that can now be redistributed through technology platforms, building trust among strangers via feedback, reviews and rating systems. Population growth, global recession, sustainability concerns, space saving and the renewed belief in the importance of the community (virtual and real) are enumerated as the main drivers for the Sharing Economy.
"The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed yet".
Sharing Economy business models emerge from our oldest instincts as humans: renting, bartering, loaning, gifting, swapping and other forms of shared ownership such as cooperative structures. Many of the most popular models are based on a market where digital peer-to-peer platforms enable sharing assets on a large scale. Nowadays websites such as Airbnb, Zipcar and Zilok connect owners and renters, GPS enabled smartphones point users towards the location of the nearest rentable car or product, social networks help building trust among people and online payment systems manage the transaction. End-users share cars, bikes, rooms, cloths, skills, food, space and a increasing range of other consumer products.
The most widespread business model utilised by Sharing Economy companies features an online market-place where the demand for certain products or services among peers is paired with the ownership of those products and services by other peers. Differentiation strategies are based on the mechanism that drives matchmaking, which can be either demand-driven, supply-driven or a combination of both.
The Sharing Economy model promotes a more efficient use of assets, giving access to more opportunities, at lower cost and adjusting to the needs of our resources. It essentially revolves around three models:
- Product-based Systems: Users pay for the benefit of using a product without needing to own the product outright (e.g. car/bike sharing). This disrupts traditional industries based on models of individual private property.
- Redistributing Markets: Redistribute used items from someone who does not want them to someone who does want them (e.g. exchange markets and second hand). In some markets the products can be free (Freecycle), others are exchanged (thredUP) or sold (eBay).
- Collaborative Lifestyles: People with similar needs or interests come together to share and exchange less-tangible assets such as time, space, skills, and money. This includes workspaces (CitizenSpace), gardens (Landshare) or parking space (ParkatmyHouse), loans between individuals (Lending Club) and home renting (Airbnb and Couchsurfing).
Although far from reaching its true potential, the Sharing Economy is finally rising its status among EU consumers and drawing the attention of policy makers and the traditional industry that has built businesses on continuous appetite for ownership. In some cases, the innovations brought by the Sharing Economy are disrupting established market-based business models.
Selected Examples of Sharing Economy disruptions include:
- Retailers: disrupted by Zilok (peer2peer goods exchanges)
- Hospitality: disrupted by Airbnb (peer2peer accommodation)
- Banking: disrupted by Zopa (peer2peer money lending)
- Transport: disrupted by Cambio (peer2peer car rental)
- Employment Agencies: disrupted by Taskrabbit (peer2peer services)
- Volunteering: disrupted by TimeRepublik (peer2peer volunteering)
- Education: disrupted by Skillshare (peer2peer learning)
- Food: disrupted by Feastly (peer2peer meals)
- Clothing: disrupted by 99dresses (peer2peer cloths exchange)
- Journalism: disrupted by GrassWire (peer2peer newsroom)
- Art: disrupted by getARTup (peer2peer art exchange)
- Office Rental: disrupted by Liquidspace (co-working places)
- Travelling: disrupted by Easynest (peer2peer travel costs sharing)
- Music: disrupted by Spotify (peer2peer music)
- Manufacturing: disrupted by 3D Printing (co-creation manufacturing)
“The secondhand market opens up [our] brand to a lot of people who can’t afford to buy it first-hand. In a way, it opens up a market to us that we might not have otherwise had.”
–Vincent Stanley, Patagonia
More and more businesses in a variety of sectors are now setting up virtual platforms to encourage users to share their products via marketplaces. By selling access rather than ownership, companies are now tapping into repeated business transactions. This allows for almost infinite product upgrading while gaining more data and insight about product usage from customer experiences. This expands the scope of interaction with end-users, switching from a narrow buy and sell transaction to a long-term relationship, building value to business brands.
Sharing Economy customers get better products because they are designed to last over time. They get convenient service that is customised and timely, without the burden of buying, maintaining, insuring, storing, and disposing.
An EU Policy Agenda for the Sharing Economy
New technology platforms and social tools have enabled more citizens to find new ways of monetising their underutilised assets, providing employment, housing, transportation, food, and improved lifestyles for themselves. Many new Sharing Economy companies have operations in Europe, making the continent an incubator for new business models that create jobs, empower citizens, improve resource efficiency and creates a more sustainable economic development. However, the emergence of the Sharing Economy is not happening without challenges. Innovations face substantial financial constraints and lack institutional support and scale. New comers also struggle with a number of regulatory obstacles that may jeopardise their long-term development.
Opportunities and Challenges
The Sharing Economy represents a major economic, social and cultural shift. However, it has enjoyed a relatively easy ride from EU lawmakers so far, falling below the policy radar as Sharing Economy players are often self-regulating. In general, there is a lack of tailored European policy frameworks for regulating the new Sharing Economy sector. Whereas excessive regulatory measures would suppress innovation, the absence of regulatory measures creates uncertainty that may inhibit investments and development of the sector and can result in companies trying to exploiting loopholes in the legislative vacuum, damaging consumer trust. However, rule enforcers in Europe are now beginning to realise how big the collaborative marketplace is becoming and the revenues it is generating, hence they need to explore how they could facilitate its growth.
The emerging Sharing Economy industry in the EU is facing several significant challenges, above all outdated regulatory frameworks, the hostility of established enterprises and friction with trade unions and consumer organisations. Companies are finding more and more that their national and international markets are shaped by European regulations and that markets can work better if regulations can ease their smooth functioning. By the time national governments deal with EU legislation, the majority of its content has already been agreed and decisions made at national level are largely regarding implementation. To be able to really influence legislative proposals, in terms of content, it is essential to take part in the shaping of EU policies at the earliest stages of its development. Today’s business strategy must therefore be based on the legal instruments that the EU is likely to introduce if they want to unlock European markets, reduce onerous regulation and generate competitive advantage.
Sharing Economy organisations need to have a long-term vision and play an active role with European regulators, especially the European Commission, in designing appropriate policies, as the market is now rapidly taking shape. If not, they may end up with burdensome restrictions or overstretched monitoring. This is particularly the case considering the EU2020 strategy which proposes that "the consumption of goods and services should take place in accordance with smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and should also have an impact on job creation, productivity and economic, social and territorial cohesion". The main goal should be for the EU (SEC-GEN) to recognise the Sharing Economy as an overarching strategy guiding their whole smart policy thinking in the various sectors.
It is critical to get public sector engagement to ensure an appropriate “enabling environment” for the Sharing Economy to grow. The European Sharing Economy Coalition aims to inspire European policy makers by providing them with a tangible narrative, available scalable solutions and an innovative vision for faster adoption of the Sharing Economy across policies, sectors and markets in Europe. We are on a mission to create a resilient European Union and achieve shared value!
Drawing inspiration from the Shareable Cities Resolution 87, adopted by the US Conference of Mayors, the European Sharing Economy Coalition advocates for European policy makers to support the Sharing Economy in the following ways:
- Encourage the EU to become an early adopter of shared services by supporting users and providers with the tools that can facilitate growth for the Sharing Economy.
- Commission impact assessment studies and life cycle analysis on sharing assets in the EU to identify opportunities and create more standardised methods for measuring the benefits of the Sharing Economy to the public and private sector, above all in cities.
- Embed Sharing Economy principles into curricula across primary, secondary, vocational, higher and adult education and training programmes (leadership, in-company, MBA, economics, engineering, design, ICT, marketing and policy sciences).
- Regulate on the Sharing Economy on a sector-by-sector basis, incorporating feedback from sharing companies and end-users, involving a broad set of stakeholders in consultations.
- Mitigate the impact of existing regulations that unintentionally obstruct sharing ventures and allow permits to support new sharing business models.
- Introduce mandatory requirements in existing legal framework instruments for shareable products (e.g. minimum, recyclability, reusability, upgradeability and durability).
- Facilitate the establishment of minimum safety and quality standards for Sharing Economy markets and promote a "trust certificate" that could encourage consumers to participate in peer-to-peer activities.
- Develop and implement appropriate legal mechanisms, insurance products and tax provisions for collaborative forms of business, consumption, production and exchange, without creating disadvantages to traditional business models.
- Set up networks with leaders from cities (e.g. via the EU Covenant of Mayors or the European Innovation Partnership on Smart Cities) to build capacity, spread information and ideas about successful models for the Sharing Economy.
- Create local working groups to review and address regulations that could hamper involvement in the Sharing Economy, bringing together residents and neighborhoods, redefining public services, innovation and civic engagement.
- Facilitate the transferability of best practice scalable solutions across Member States and incentivise public investments (grants, subsidies) for pilot projects and platforms on the Sharing Economy.
- Support the development of one regional Sharing Economy cluster in the EU (e.g. with cooperation among research institutes, start-ups, financiers, end-users) and "innovation zones" to act as incubators to test Sharing Economy scalable solutions.
- Promote the creation of one award scheme for the best Sharing Economy concepts to facilitate market penetration.
- Encourage cities to develop sharing and collaboration action plans to stimulate greater recognition of the Sharing Economy across local policies.
- Set up one-stop-shops for Sharing Economy entrepreneurs to bring together all business support services including mentoring, incubation, acceleration, advice on access to finance and support for internationalisation.
- Enact a European public procurement system, with shareability criteria for tenders, favoring Sharing Economy enterprises.
- Introduce appropriate EU funding lines to support public/private partnerships between Sharing Economy platforms and local governments.
Drawing inspiration from the report: Policies for Shareable Cities, European policy makers should play an active role in making publicly owned assets available for maximum utilisation by designing sharable infrastructures, services, incentives and regulations that facilitate the Sharing Economy at local level. This is particularly relevant in the following areas:
- Shareable Transportation: subsidise, incentivise or require car sharing, bike sharing and ride sharing programs. Designate, reduce fees or establish free parking spots for car sharing. Allow residents to lease residential parking spaces for shared vehicles. Create economic incentives for ride sharing, like designated lanes or waived or reduced tolls. Help meet demand for ride sharing by designating convenient locations as carpool pick-up spots.
- Shareable Food: Encourage urban agriculture by removing barriers to growing and selling. Provide tax credits to property owners who farm vacant land. Conduct inventories that explore the potential for food cultivation on unused land. Allow food distribution points to increase access to local food production. Support the establishment of food redistribution programs. Support local commercial kitchens and food enterprises.
- Shareable Housing: Help establish more housing cooperatives. Permit residents to use their homes for short-term renters. Amend or remove restrictions to co-habitation. Enable the creation of co-housing and eco-villages.
- Shareable Jobs: Reduce fees to allow shared workspaces and community-owned businesses. Facilitate the temporary use of empty commercial spaces. Consider Sharing Economy companies whenever contracts are established for public procurement of goods and services. Integrate topics related to the Sharing Economy into high education, vocational training and other programs.
Manifesto of the European Sharing Economy Coalition
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