A circular economy is one of the hottest topics within sustainability and current levels of waste and pollution clearly show that a transition is needed. As an alternative to traditional linear systems, a circular economy is based on the principles of optimising resource yields, minimising negative impacts and preserving natural capital throughout the entire lifecycle of products. In other words, a circular economy seeks to rebuild capital, whether this is financial, manufactured, human, social or natural. Waste is designed out of systems and materials are regenerated for as long as possible.
With the emergence of a circular economy, new business models and modes of consumption are arising. Especially within the use-phase of products, we can see new forms of consumptions like sharing, co-owning and renting.
When zooming in on the average Swedish consumer, a positive attitude towards a circular economy is growing. However, not all modes of consumption are as equally accepted by the Swedes. As recycling and buying-second hand are for most considered a norm, co-ownership is still a challenge. Let's dive into why that is.
Doubts About Shared Ownership
The Swedish consumption, while generally positive towards circular behaviour, is cautious about co-owning. More than half of the population has a negative attitude towards co-owning, which is an increase of 7% from last year. Only 13% of people have a positive attitude.
Despite the fact that the market is developing towards a sharing economy, the percentage of Swedish consumers actively co-owning a product together with others declined from 25% to 18% in the last year. Why does co-owning in Sweden develops contrary to the general trend?
Trust is a key enabler of co-ownership due to the risk of someone else damaging your product – but the level of trust in our society has declined in the last few years. Consequently, consumers are less inclined to share their products and goods.
Another insight is the fact that people are not at all interested in meeting people in the setting of co-owning. In fact, the human interaction is a restriction for even performing the behaviour in the first place.
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Incentives for Co-owning
Among the consumers who do co-own something, saving money is the most important incentive, followed by only needing the function of the product, not the ownership. Generally, Swedes are more open to co-owning products that require a large investment, such as cars or vacation houses, which shows that they want to co-own mainly due to high prices. Fewer people are open to sharing smaller products, such as a computer, a camera or a bike.
Together, these results show that many consumers consider co-owning only if they lack the economic resources to buy something themselves. The positive impact on the environment of co-owning is a less important incentive for Swedes than last year, having fallen from second to third place. This is not necessarily a bad development – as long as the action of sharing still takes places.
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Slight Differences Between The Nordic Countries
While the attitude towards co-ownership is rather similar in all Nordic countries, the share of consumers that co-own something together with others differs. In Sweden and Norway, the shares have decreased by 7% and 4% respectively, in Denmark and Finland, on the other hand, the level has remained unchanged from last year.
These market insights need to be considered when developing and customising circular models and services. It is important to consider the maturity of the market, know what incentives people to act and with that create easy and hassle-free services around it.
Discover the full insights in the report 'The Nordic Market for Circular Economy - 2018' in the Report Store.
'The Nordic Market for Circular Economy' is a complete mapping of the maturity of the market regarding circular business models. The study seeks to examine the current attitudes, knowledge, behaviours and focus areas of consumers as well as the implications of these for business, organisations and agencies.
1) Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2017,