The sharing economy in the Global South and sustainability transitions: An assessment of the sustainability claims and sustainability transitions in Metro Manila, Philippines

University essay from Lunds universitet/Internationella miljöinstitutet

Abstract: The sharing economy, new and still evolving, is being put forward as a potentially disruptive sustainable solution to economic, social and environmental problems. Its design is mainly shaped and analysed by people from the Global North, while the spread of sharing economy initiatives in the Global South has escaped the purview of scholars. More so, the sustainability potentials claimed by proponents and actors in the field lack empirical investigation. This thesis aims to contribute to the discourse by assessing the state of the sharing economy in the Global South as represented by Metro Manila, and in relation to its ability to truly contribute to sustainability. In order to achieve this, the study utilises the sustainability pillars with the core framings tasks and sustainability transitions framework. Data collection methods included literature analysis, more than 25 in-depth interviews, and participant observation. This study shows that the sustainability claims of the sharing economy in Metro Manila is somewhat similar to the Global North yet with key differences especially in terms of potential implications to sustainability. The expansion of the sharing economy across a wide range of economic sectors (i.e. transportation, services, money, spaces, logistics, food, goods and learning) is almost due to necessity; current prevalent regimes in the Global South fall short of providing basic needs and services such as efficient public transportation, employment opportunities and extra income. Hence, economic and social sustainability are the main diagnostic and motivational framings employed to attract users. Through strategic alignment of the sharing economy to urgent socio-economic problems while avoiding direct confrontation with incumbent industries, the sharing economy is able to grow with minimal resistance from prevailing regimes. However, because of the lack of environmental dimensions, the sharing economy is failing to actualise a holistic contribution to sustainability. Instead, at its current state, it is heading towards a more capitalistic pathway, fueling consumption, which will likely add to the growing urbanization problems of Metro Manila. This study stresses the need to better harness the potentials of the sharing economy before it runs counter to its promise to sustainability.

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