The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), a consultative body of the EU, called for new collaborative opportunities for consumers and businesses within the single market. Collaborative consumption is a class of economic activity in which participants share access to products or services, rather than having individual ownership. Initiatives such as car-sharing, room rental (Couchsurfing), and digital communities for learning languages, represent great alternatives in times of crisis, according to the EESC. "Collaborative consumption can meet social needs in situations where there is no commercial interest and it can help, as a for-profit activity, to create jobs," said Bernardo Hernández Bataller, the EESC member who drafted the report.
The EESC wishes to:
- regulate practice within these forms of consumption, in order to establish the rights and responsibilities of all the stakeholders involved;
- identify any potential barriers to these activities;
- set up a database to pool experience.
The initiative came up as the EESC noted that consumers sometimes purchase products they do not use often enough to justify the price they paid. Furthermore, collaborative consumption is an alternative to last century's over-consumption which has lead to inequality and unnatural extremes such as obesity and hunger, as well as waste and precariousness.
The ECCG summarizes the potential benefits of collaborative or participatory consumption as follows:
- lower resource consumption and CO2 emissions, higher demand for good quality products if the products are to be lent, hired or repaired;
- eco-design benefiting a number of different users;
- durability and repeated customisation of compatible products;
- social interaction, community development and trust among individuals;
- access to high-quality products for lower-income consumers.
Further information: http://www.eesc.europa.eu/?i=portal.en.press-releases.30595