More Customers, More Controversy: 2015 In Collaborative Consumption

Now that the sharing economy is–in many cases–just the economy, what happens next?

The sharing economy continued to gain steam in 2015: More people hailed Uber cabs, rented Airbnb apartments, and parlayed micro-jobs on TaskRabbit. Cities tried to enable sharing companies as a way of expanding access to services. The categories of things we could share expanded, from solar panels to coffee cups. And the term “sharing economy” even entered the Oxford English Dictionary, showing it’s really a thing and not some passing fad.


At the same time, companies in the collaborative economy also faced something of a backlash. There were calls to separate out those businesses that genuinely shared ownership and governance from those that simply rent out other people’s stuff for a profit (like Uber). More seriously, people worried about an economy where we’re working “on demand” but don’t have any benefits or health insurance for when we’re not working. Potential solutions include “fractionalized benefits” (where Uber drivers get percentages of the perks enjoyed by full-time workers) and new employment categories like “dependent contractor.”

2016 looks set to repeat to the pattern of 2015. As sharing companies become systemically more important, they’re bound to face questions about their impact on the economy and society. And as the laws begin to catch up to the innovative new businesses, it remains to be seen whether the models can sustain themselves when they’re fully regulated.

1. Defining The Sharing Economy: What Is Collaborative Consumption—And What Isn’t?
Are Airbnb, Zipcar, Etsy, and Uber really all doing the same thing? Or do we need better definitions of this new economic force?


2. Stop Saying Uber Is Part Of The Sharing Economy
What is being shared besides your money?

3. The People’s Uber: Why The Sharing Economy Must Share Ownership
Workers are often taken advantage of by the on-demand economy. What if they ran it instead?

4. Could La’Zooz Be The Ride-Sharing App We’ve Been Waiting For?
To be worthy of its name, the sharing economy needs platforms that are owned by the people who use them.


5. Here’s How We Could Raise The Dignity Of Workers In The Sharing Economy

It’s time to end the archaic concept that employer benefits only come with a 40-hour work week.

6. Could Creating A New Class Of Worker Solve The Sharing Economy’s Labor Problems?
Today, all employees are either full-time or independent contractors. For many modern workers, the definition is somewhere in between.

7. As The Sharing Economy Goes Mainstream, Most Cities Want To See It Grow
Despite tensions with companies like Airbnb and Uber, a new survey finds that most cities want to find a way to make it work.


8. If We’re Sharing Everything Else, Why Not Our Coffee Cups?
A simple fix for cutting down on New York’s enormous waste stream of to-go coffee cups involves returning your cup when you’re done.

9. How The Sharing Economy Could Help The Poorest Among Us
Believe it or not, tech-savvy hipsters aren’t the ones who benefit most from ride sharing.

10. What The Data Says About Airbnb In New York City
16,000 people are renting out their entire apartments on Airbnb—meaning many are illegal hotels. There’s also a divide between neighborhoods rich and poor.


11. With This Airbnb For Energy, Now You Can Buy Solar Power From Your Neighbor
The sharing economy meets renewable energy.

12. The Airbnb Effect: Use Rewards To Turn Your Company Into A Movement
Offer people $10 and a challenge and you might be surprised by what they’re willing to do.



About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.