Depending on who you ask, the sharing economy represents an unregulated marketplace or a more democratised economy, a pathway to long-term sustainability or over-consumption owing to greater affordability. Using accommodation sharing as an example, this study by Voytenko Palgan et al. compares whether environmental, economic, and social implications of the sharing economy are framed similarly by different kinds of platforms, as well as how these ‘framings’ or conceptualisations affect their prospects.

Existing research tends to overlook the fact that accommodation sharing is not a homogeneous sector, but comprises rental, reciprocal and free platforms. By comparison, this study breaks down sustainability framings by the three types of accommodation sharing platforms. This leads to rich and nuanced analysis on diagnostic, prognostic, and motivational narratives held by different platforms and users.

Overall, the study finds great variation in framings of environmental, economic, and social implications of the sharing economy in general, and accommodation sharing in particular. The study also finds that for-profit platforms use the ethos of sustainability to attract more users (both hosts and guests), but nevertheless prioritise economic prosperity over environmental or social dimensions. Non-profit platforms seem to have environmental and social benefits as priorities, and thus are not limited by the profit generation.