Sharing Economy as a Contributor to Sustainable Growth. an EU Perspective

By Bonciu, Florin; Bâlgar, Ana-Cristina | Romanian Journal of European Affairs, June 2016 | Go to article overview

Sharing Economy as a Contributor to Sustainable Growth. an EU Perspective


Bonciu, Florin, Bâlgar, Ana-Cristina, Romanian Journal of European Affairs


Introduction

As the world population exceeded 7.3 billion by mid November 2015 (World Population Clock, 2015), the climate change has increasingly became a serious and recognized issue while the limits of the current economic growth model are evident, international organizations (such as United Nations with its recently adopted "2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development"), academia or the business environment are looking to solutions not only for increasing the efficiency in utilizing resources, but for entirely new approaches related to what economic growth and development means. As all these approaches, in different formats and from different angles, aim at providing long term sustainability of humankind, the present paper explores the way in which a new and very dynamic form of business - the sharing economy - may contribute to the achievement of this sustainability.

The mainstream literature on sustainable economic growth and development refers usually to the challenge of accommodating the growing number of population in the world economy with limited resources and climate change by making use of more efficient technologies that are less polluting and less energy and material intensive as well as by recycling or reducing waste. At the same time, some economic analysis developed in the past 5 years on sharing economy focusing usually on the characteristics and size of this new economic phenomenon. The element of novelty present in this paper consists in an attempt to explore the contribution that can be brought to sustainable economic growth by this new form of economic activity - the sharing economy.

1. The context of the emergence of the sharing economy: multipolarity as the key aspect of the contemporary world economy

1.1. The large scale multipolarity

The description of the world economy as multipolar is usually related to the geopolitical aspects that describe the international context after the second world war. From this perspective, between 1945 - 1990, the world economy was bipolar and structured more or less around two centres of economic, political and military power, the United States and the Soviet Union. After 1990, as the Soviet Union ceased to be an international actor, the United States remained the single world superpower and thus the world economy became unipolar. Anyway this situation has changed quite rapidly after 2000, and particularly after 2008 (because of the onset of the economic crisis that affected many countries, especially those in the Euro zone) and after October 2014 (when China became the first economy in the world from the GDP point of view expressed at Purchasing Power Parity). Generally speaking, after 2010 the world economy became multipolar (O'Sullivan, M. Subramanian, K., 2015, p. 14), being characterized by the existence of a leading power (the United States) interacting with a number of regional or world powers (China, but also India, the Russian Federation, Brazil and a number of others).

One characteristic of the above mentioned multipolarity is the fact that it refers to countries or single economies. Anyway, to these countries as centres of power we have to add, with some nuances, multi-countries actors, among which a premier place is occupied by the European Union. European Union defines itself in the global arena as a soft power and it can play an important role in trade negotiations (for instance within the World Trade Organization or in the current ones related to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment partnership - TTIP with United States). On the other hand, differing from United States, Russian Federation or China, European Union cannot project hard power across large spaces and, at the same time, is confronted with a declining share of the global output. On the same topic, we can note that particularly in time of crises of whatever nature soft power has a rather limited impact (Friedman, G., 2015, p.241).

For the purposes of this analysis we defined this type of multipolarity referring to centres of power of regional or global scope as large scale multipolarity. …

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