Making an Impact in the Sharing Economy

By Greg Doyle

How can brands navigate our politically and socially complex marketplace as stakeholder skepticism remains high? As we all know, this is the ultimate question that companies of all sizes and industries must answer.

In 2011, Time magazine called collaborative consumption – renting, lending and sharing goods instead of buying them – one of “10 ideas that will change the world.” And few would argue about the influence this new economic structure holds. But there’s much debate about the role the sharing economy plays in addressing the crucial social and environmental issues of our time. This debate is likely to only intensify as more brands enter the marketplace and stakeholders continue to increase their expectations around cause.

As someone who helps companies define their corporate social responsibility strategy, get and stay a step ahead of marketplace trends, and develop collaborative and innovative social impact initiatives, I believe the time is now for brands in the sharing economy. Brands looking to seize this opportunity must leverage their strengths, borrow best practices and focus their efforts. Below are three companies in the sharing economy that have done so on the journey towards impact.

AirbnbDisaster Response Program
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, over 1,000 Airbnb hosts opened their New York homes to those affected by the devastation. Inspired by their generosity, Airbnb launched its Disaster Response Program, an initiative that connects those in need of disaster shelter with local Airbnb hosts offering to open their doors. By activating its community of hosts, Airbnb is leveraging its strengths and making an impact in a way that is uniquely Airbnb. And the company’s acts haven’t gone without recognition. In 2016, Airbnb was named a finalist for a U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Corporate Citizenship Award.

LyftRound Up & Donate
Following President Donald Trump’s proposed immigration ban, Lyft took action and pledged $1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union over the next four years. While the donation sparked immediate consumer praise and loyalty, it was just an indicator of more to come from the company. In March, Lyft announced that it will soon unveil a program called Round Up, leveraging its technology to offer riders the opportunity to support causes important to them, such as the environment, veterans and equality. Lyft is also opening its wallet as part of the campaign, donating $100,000 over the next year to the USO to support service men and women with their transportation needs.

Konnect Kloud (K2)Web-Based Supply Chain Solution
As featured in April’s issue of Conscious Company magazine, Konnect Kloud (K2) is an online database that is connecting importers and exporters in the backhauling community with empty shipping containers to drive both business and environmental efficiencies. Although the technology is still in its early stages, it has already demonstrated its potential for impact. Thus far K2 has cut carbon emissions significantly by eliminating 4.5 million trucking miles from being driven. As a result of its success, the platform is being recognized as a “must have” solution by all parties in the industry.

I am confident that, if brands leverage their strengths, borrow best practices and focus their efforts, we soon won’t be talking about the sharing economy as one of the “10 ideas that will change the world” but rather one of the “10 ideas that did change the world.”

Image Credit: Pixabay/Unsplash

Greg Doyle is an Associate at Cause Consulting, a strategy and communications firm that enables companies to simultaneously strengthen business + impact society.

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