IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute
As the unsustainable consumption of goods and services continues to increase globally, collaborative consumption, sharing services and the sharing economy have been identified and promoted as an important step in transforming current business models toward more sustainable practices. However, the environmental implications of sharing services are not always transparent and are often assumed to create large environmental benefits.
This study aims to review the environmental performance, and potential, of different sharing services available in the Hammarby Sjöstad area of Stockholm. These include 1) the sharing platform provided by Hygglo.se, 2) package drop-off and pick-up services offered by QLocx and 3) sharing of cargo bikes. Life cycle assessment (LCA) is used to identify the impacts and benefits of the sharing services, taking into account both current and future consumption patterns, product lifetime and use, potential replacements of conventional products and services, impacts from digital infrastructure and the implications these may have. Furthermore, the study outlines an approach to identify methodological considerations for assessing these systems using LCA and addressing the sensitivity of these choices.
The results suggest that there is a significant potential for the sharing services reviewed to reduce environmental impacts. The Hygglo.se platform in particular offers large potential to reduce production impacts for new product purchases and reduce impacts even further if product purchases are avoided through the availability of the sharing service. The QLocx system can significantly reduce impacts from logistics services and transportation by reducing delivery attempts and providing increased availability for delivery and pick-up services. Finally, by replacing conventional modes of transportation, for e.g. shopping trips, the cargo bike sharing similarly can reduce impacts significantly, offering a low-carbon transportation method. The results also examine potential synergies of the services, i.e. combining QLocx services for product sharing through Hygglo.se. As such the impacts from the sharing products are further reduced. However, and as the discussion outlines, the results are dependent upon a number of assumptions and are sensitive to choices made, e.g. to transportation methods and the number of uses. The study thus outlines many of the potentially sensitive methodological choices and outlines improvements for reviewing the impacts of sharing services in the future.