Greenwashing has been around for some years now. Corporations were not slow to realize that re-branding their products as "green" was a quicker, and much cheaper way to hold on to consumer loyalties than going the arduous, more expensive route of actually making their products better for the environment. Yet perhaps the allure of greenwashing has started to fade -- entrepreneurs and marketing types are flocking to adopt the new buzzword "sharing" for their products, regardless of whether these involve any actual sharing per se.
The idea of a "sharing economy" is an important one, and urgently needed today. Rampant consumption and the imperative of economic growth are among the main causes for the environmental crisis we are now facing. Sharing resources we already have means cutting back on needless consumption; and sharing itself , the non-monetary movement of goods and services between friends and within communities, provides a long-overdue correction to the profit-driven expansion of our economic system.
So it's important to be clear that the sharing economy as a whole is not involved in "sharewashing." Below, I list three different ways that the term "sharing" has been roped into a sharewashing agenda.
The key difference between the promise of the actual sharing economy, and the flood of sharewashing companies seeking to hide under its mantle, is that the latter inescapably involve monetary exchange, for profit, in stark contrast to any definition of "sharing" your mother, presumably, once taught you.
1. Renting is now sharing!
Some people have kind, lovable landlords. Others aren't so lucky. But all of us who rent our homes can be thankful that our landlords have chosen to share them with us -- as long as we pay the rent, of course!
What? That doesn't sound like "sharing" to you? You must not have heard how AirBnB -- which facilitates short-term room subletting via the internet -- has been touted as one of the premier examples of the "sharing economy." Now, I have used and enjoyed AirBnB, as have many people I know. But is it a form of "sharing?" Ridiculous!