Don’t buy – share: how collaborative consumption opens the door to new business models and a sustainable lifestyle

Munich, November 8th 2012. Register now for the big Rio+20 follow-up conference “SusCon”. Experience Auma Obama, Prince Charles, Alain Caparros and many more in the UN city, Bonn!

Buy, use and discard – the classic consumption model where products, and therefore raw materials, are used up in a short time span – is up for renegotiation. Our modern society is increasingly looking for alternative ways to operate and live less resource-intensive lives. Collaborative consumption, such as the collective use of machines, insurance or housing, opens up new opportunities for sustainable lifestyles, and business models that are resource-friendly. On November 27 - 28, SusCon, the big Rio+20 follow-up conference, will examine collaborative models of consumption that are currently in practice throughout Europe.

Purchasing was yesterday. A sustainable consumer society must concentrate on the use of products rather than their ownership. In concrete terms this means swapping, sharing, lending rather than acquiring, wearing out and discarding. The ecological added value is obvious: “The sharing of a washing machine or a lawn mower among many people makes fewer of these everyday objects necessary, which in turn conserves resources. In addition, those who facilitate business models based on lending or sharing products have an incentive – the ability to supply particularly long-lasting products.” says Michael Kuhndt, Director of the Collaborating Centre on Sustainable Consumption and Production (CSCP).

The “Sharing model” also offers consumers the advantage that they don’t have to concern themselves with the maintenance and reparation of equipment. They sidestep initial investment costs and have flexibility to try out different products. A good example is car-sharing.

The internet is particularly well placed to support such sharing schemes, and a large number of swap opportunities have appeared. For example, on “”, visitors can find lodging in private homes in 26,000 cities and 192 countries, benefiting both lodger and host who earns money from the rental charge. The online platform functions similarly. On this webpage, visitors can hire or hire out machines that would be under used by just the owner. Tractors and cranes are swapped at the click of the mouse for short periods of time with just a small payment made to the owners. Floow2 finances itself with the revenue from user registrations and advertising.

“Collaborative consumption is developing into a mass market. Passive customers are becoming co-creators of this business model and are thereby transforming the economy”, says Kuhndt. Through their experience with social networks, young people – the “Digital Natives” – especially are open when it comes to sharing. They are more mobile than other generations and more interested in satisfying their needs here and now. Material ownership and status symbols are becoming less important.

Nonetheless, the idea of “using without owning” has its challenges. Borrowed items are used more intensively and they wear out more quickly. Damages can lead to conflict within lending communities. Also, many lease holders find the additional time and labour associated with arranging bookings, pick-ups and the return of products to be burdensome – personally possessed items are available anytime.

In many societies throughout the world, material ownership is connected with developing one’s identity and, therefore, constitutes an integral part of the culture. The classic throw-away consumption is the rule and can be seen in the numbers. For example, the consumption of food and drink, private transportation, as well as living and housing, accounts for 70 to 80 per cent of Europe’s ecological damage as is shown by a study by “SPREAD Sustainable Lifestyles 2050 Project

At SusCon the thematic session “New Business Models and Collaborative Consumption” will investigate the central questions of collaborative consumption. These are:

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Press contact:

Mildred Steidle, Organic Services: +49 89-82075908 and +49 151 46748807;

Anna Gauto, forum CSR international: +49 89 746611-23;

SusCon Organisers:

Udo Censkowsky, Organic Services: +49 (0)89-82075902;

Bernward Geier, COLABORA: +49 (0)2245-618652;

Fritz Lietsch, forum Nachhaltig Wirtschaften: +49 (0)89-746611-41;

SusCon 2012 – The “International Conference on Sustainable Business and Consumption” brings representatives of the economy together with important stakeholders from government and UN organisations, as well as NGOs. In 2012 the conference will take place for the first time in the UN city, Bonn, Germany. On November 27th and 28th businesses, NGOs and politicians will discuss the topic of the “Green Economy” and introduce solution approaches for sustainable supply chains. Topics that will be focussed on are technical innovations, CSR 2.0, resource efficiency, certification, as well as financial transition and lifestyles. Four hundred participants are expected. In 2010, the last SusCon conference attracted 300 delegates representing businesses and financial institutions, governments, NGOs and the media from 28 countries.

Press Release: EN/DE