Our society is changing. ‘Us’ is becoming the new ‘me’ and access to items is becoming more important than actually possessing them. Laury Zwart champions the role asset sharing between businesses.
As the RSA has argued elsewhere, we are currently in the midst of a transition towards a circular, sharing economy in which we need to make more efficient use of everything we already have. We are now looking to share, lend/borrow and exchange anything and everything. And it is not just consumers who can join this movement; the success of businesses will start to be characterized by the more efficient use of company assets through sharing. Why? Because there are three significant advantages to asset sharing that are hard to pass up. Businesses improve their sustainable impact, enhance their social position and reap major financial benefits.
Sharing assets can be seen as an integral part of the development towards a more circular economy, in which loops are closed and sustainable business models are becoming staples in the landscape. Sharing assets lead to financial benefits, as companies are able to save costs when they rent or borrow from each other instead of making investments when purchasing equipment or hiring personnel. Companies that choose to use assets from colleague businesses, reduce their capital expenditure, leaving a larger cash flow for alternative investments. Additionally, they are able to generate additional income by (temporarily) renting out assets that are not optimally being used.
New companies, like the one I work for, have identified the opportunities of asset sharing. It has developed a business-to-business sharing marketplace that enables companies and institutions to share overcapacity in every sector, from construction to healthcare. Assets, waste, resources, facilities and services can be used more efficient by sharing them with other unknown companies, within a trusted network of businesses or within an (healthcare) organisation between departments or entities.
Making efficient use of what we already have – a natural aspect of the circular economy – is often forgotten in the sustainability debate. Companies that share assets seamlessly fill the gap left by reduce/reuse/recycle. The utilisation of surplus capacity through working together and sharing prevents overproduction. Instead of creating and buying new products, companies can now make better use of what is already there. In addition, maximising the use of company resources during their life means that raw materials and energy are used more efficiently. Furthermore, sharing assets helps organisations in reaching several United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) as well.
One of the key barriers to medium and large companies switching to asset sharing is the change in mind-set required to shift from ownership to access. Asset sharing is a new business process for most organisations and calls for a different approach to traditional operations and procurement practices. To make the step towards sharing assets a bit easier companies are emerging to provide existing business communities and organisations with (private) internal sharing marketplaces. Personalised sharing platforms enable them to share all kinds of capacity within their trusted community or between departments and entities within their organisation.
Like all major changes, the switch to asset sharing will not be easy. The management team has to be on board and an organisation has to be ready, willing, and know how to embrace this new addition to their business. It will be the task of, for instance, procurement or facility managers to think along with the executives, advise them, and implement it in the daily business of organisations and make sure that every employee knows that if an item available is not available or if they are in need of something, that it is better look for it at our neighbours before anything else. But most importantly, they will need to be proactive about the management of matching supply and demand, closing deals, arranging transport and taking care of billing. Then, asset sharing will become anyone’s new business.
Laury Zwart is an entrepreneur and communications director for FLOOW2