How can we encourage greater ownership of our resources?



It is well established that one of the key strategies for improving the levels of engagement of  stakeholders (e.g. the general public), with more sustainable approaches to managing the environment, is through ‘ownership’. In other words, if someone has a vested interest in the environment, then its more likely that they would protect natural resources and use them in a manner that is sustainable.

I was reading through an interesting article recently, entitled Sharing is the new buying. Essentially, it outlines ‘new’ models of consumption, based around the sharing, renting, collaborating and accessing products and services, rather than purchasing them. According to the article, these business models are realising significant growth and this rise is predicted to increase from around $US15B in 2013, to $US 335B in 2025.  Indeed, names such as AirBnB (the room share service) and Zipcar (the car share service), have become global household names.

Evidently, therefore, the models are facilitating strong, growing and wide spread engagement and ‘ownership’. This is largely because there are benefits on both sides of fence. These primarily end to be financial. For example, the person renting the room, gets a ‘cheaper’ option, than the traditional offering, while the individual providing the room, gets an (additional) income.

A question that arises from the above, revolves around how might it be possible to tap into the use of similar models to encourage greater ownership in our consumption of resources? What benefits would best encourage uptake? There is no doubt, that circular business models (e.g. reuse and remanufacturing), are becoming more popular. However, uptake is still largely driven by costs and perceptions of value (i.e. the latest version of x is better, so I want that one). This, however, leads to another question. Is the sustainable resources argument, based on ‘saving the environment’, the most effective one? Indeed, it can be argued that the companies mentioned above are offering sustainable approaches. For example, reduction in the ownership of cars, and increased car pooling, as is the case with Zipcar. Therefore, if we are to encourage greater stakeholder ownership of our natural resources, is it better to simply accept that the environment plays second fiddle, and instead focus the ‘argument’ on the financial benefits?

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