Rebound Effects of the Sharing Economy


Consumers are increasingly using dedicated platforms to share with others their underutilised products. While this is expected to reduce the environmental impact, it is unclear to what degree the use of savings or earnings from the platforms might increase resource use.

Project description (ongoing research project)

Sharing platforms play a central role in enabling people to share underutilised products. Depending on different consuming and sharing behaviours, however, this is likely to lead to negative rebound effects (e.g. if the savings are used to finance air travel). It has not yet been established what sharing platforms, but also policy-makers, could do to minimise these negative effects.

In our project we tackle this problem using an inter- and transdisciplinary approach. First, we analyse the motivations, perceptions and spending activities of the users of peer-to-peer (P2P) sharing platforms. Second, we quantify the extent of the rebound effect and the related environmental impacts resulting from the way in which savings are spent. Finally, together with selected sharing platform providers we will develop and test measures to reduce the environmental impact of sharing practices.


Actions to minimise rebound effects can be initiated by policy-makers or by the platform providers themselves. To ensure their effectiveness, however, we need to have a better understanding of how human behaviour functions and how it can be changed. Only a small amount of empirically verified knowledge about P2P sharing has been acquired until now.


This project aims first at better understanding sharing platforms users. We analyse (i) why they take part in P2P sharing, (ii) how they spend the money they have earned or saved; (iii) and if they are aware of potential rebound effects. In a second phase, we will estimate the environmental impacts of rebound effects. Third, we will develop and test possible alternatives with our partners in order to counter the rebound effect.


Our project provides key insights for three target groups:

  1. For platform owners, our results will provide information on the values and motives that influence the sharing behaviour of their customers.
  2. For society, our project will highlight ways in which the negative environmental effects of sharing can be minimised by the platform providers themselves as well as through targeted policy measures.
  3. For policy-makers, we will collect evidence in field experiments to provide a basis for policy decisions to promote a sustainable sharing economy.

Original title

The consumer and environmental potential of the sharing economy: motives, barriers and rebound effects

Project leaders

Project leader

  • Prof. Dr. Claudia R. Binder, Institut d'ingénierie de l'environnement, EPF Lausanne

Project partners

  • Prof. Dr. Sebastian Gurtner, Institut für Unternehmensentwicklung, Berner Fachhochschule
  • Prof. Dr. Sofia Ritzén, Machine Design, Industrial Engineering and Management, KTH, Sweden
  • Hygglo
  • Pumpipumpe
  • Sharely



Further information on this content


Prof. Dr. Claudia R. Binder EPFL - ENAC - IIE Station 2 Bâtiment GR 1015 Lausanne +41 21 693 08 63