Ride On! Mobility Business Models for the Sharing Economy

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By Boyd Cohen (Universidad del Desarollo, Chile) and Jan Kietzmann (Simon Fraser University, Canada).

Over the past several years, a number of altogether new and different businesses have emerged. What their underlying business models have in common is that they operate in “sharing economies” of collaborative consumption(Botsman & Rogers, 2010), where people offer and share underutilized resources in creative, new ways. Airbnb lets people rent out part or all of their homes for short stays, and Uber allows for real-time, location based ridesharing. An increasing number of individuals who may not have considered ridesharing or renting a room in private residence as their vacation domicile a few years ago now prefer such sharing models to mainstream alternatives. While some of these sharing models might have resulted from a need for frugal spending after the global economic recession of 2008, their success was also driven by a growing environmental consciousness combined with the ubiquity of Internet and associated information and communication technologies which make sharing possible at scale. Together, these developments have started to challenge traditional thinking about how resources can and should be offered andconsumed, supporting arguments that incremental improvements in our existing production and consumption systems are insufficient to transform our global economy toward sustainability (Lovins & Cohen, 2011; Stead & Stead, 2013). The potential sustainability benefits associated with such sharing economies are interesting from an organizational and environmental perspective, particularly in the context of the increasing urbanization many countries experience today. Especially in growing cities, numerous drivers support the introduction of such sustainability-oriented innovations (Hansen, Grosse-Dunker, & Reichwald, 2009), ranging from market imperfections (Cohen & Winn, 2007) and environmental regulations (Rugman & Verbeeke, 2000) to emerging demand for sustainable solutions from consumer, corporate, and government stakeholders (Hart, 1997). Due to its relative newness, research on the relationship between business and sustainability theory in the context of a sharing economy, as “an economic model based on sharing underutilized assets from spaces to skills to stuff for monetary or non-monetary benefits” (Botsman, 2013) is scarce. More specifically, despite the growing demand and opportunity for sustainable mobility solutions from the private sector, there is a surprising dearth of research in the public policy and management disciplines regarding factors influencing the adoption and success or failure of collaborations between the private sector and cities in solving urban sustainability challenges (Alexandrescu, Martinát, Klusáček, & Barke, 2014).

The aim of this research is to explore emerging sustainability business models for one segment of the sharing economy, shared mobility. An interesting aspect of shared mobility solutions is that multiple agents, including public and private providers, seek to develop business models which address deficiencies in public infrastructure (e.g., streets, parking) and public transit systems, historically the exclusive purview of local and regional governments. However, the common interest in sustainability among these different types of agents does not always lead to harmony, instead giving rise to agency conflicts that can reduce the positive sustainability impact of their individual and collective initiatives. There are literally dozens of unique business models in the shared mobility arena. We have chosen to focus on three broad segments of shared mobility, carsharing, ridesharing, and bikesharing, to explore our core research question: In the context of shared mobility business models, what is the optimal relationship between the service provider and the local government to achieve
the common objective of sustainable mobility?
Read the answer and the full paper at: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1086026614546199

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