Unlike the sharing economy among individuals that has already gained a foothold, sharing economy among companies is very rare. Although 50% of companies seem willing to share, it hardly happens in practice. Yet the sharing economy can play an important role in the transition to a more circular economy: materials are used more efficiently, which saves on new materials and CO2 emissions.
With the Start-2-Share project, Quares Facility Management wants to encourage material sharing on business parks, and step by step build confidence in the system and its scale. To this end, we have designed a local digital sharing platform that clearly maps existing equipment and know-how on the business park. To convince immediately, we focus on the equipment that offers the most financial and operational benefits for companies. Also, additional guidance in the field and shared success stories should remove the barriers.
Besides the ecological benefits, the sharing platform also offers many financial advantages for participating companies: they get access to equipment from neighbouring companies at attractive sharing rates, they save significantly on investments in new equipment and companies that rent out have an increased return on their investments.
Together with I-Revitalise, we designed a user-friendly sharing platform for business parks: Start-2-Share. It collects all the different assets, spaces, materials ... of participants that can be shared or lent among themselves.
To best inform and inspire companies, we organised several informative workshops, demo sessions and webinars. In doing so, we were also able to respond to companies' uncertainties.
Despite the difficulties associated with the corona pandemic, we managed to add 35 active users to the platform during the trial period of this project, with 13 assets to share.
We are in talks with the City of Mechelen to open the sharing platform to all Mechelen entrepreneurs. In Mechelen, the demand for spaces for short-term use is high. Start-2-Share can be the link between new entrepreneurs and companies in the business park.
MOST IMPORTANT LESSONS LEARNED
It was not easy to motivate companies to put material on the platform. Due to the coronapandemic, companies were more likely to turn back towards their core business and it was difficult for us to capitalise on the sense of community. Still, we reached 35 active users.
Individual and physical contact with companies is important: people do business with people, not companies with companies. A permanent contact person who acts as a confidant and liaison within the project is a crucial factor.
It is not enough to communicate only through one's own channels; stakeholders also play an important role in this respect. For instance, communication from cities and municipalities can be a great added value to increase trust in sharing platforms.
Besides online communication, good visual marketing was also important. For instance, via frames with banners in the business parks, we ensured daily awareness that the sharing platform exists and is active.
4Participating business parks
13Assets to share
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?
Thanks to this project, we had the chance to research a sharing platform, launch it effectively and already discover and adjust the first growing pains.
Start-2-Share will certainly continue and options to scale up are being looked at. For instance, the sharing platform can be valuable for cities and municipalities to help achieve their climate plans and sustainability goals.
Both partners strongly believe in the success and further expansion of the platform. Sufficient reflection and adaptability during the project already gave us a good idea of how to respond to the needs of businesses. We therefore intend to continue investing time and resources to become a fixture for practically supporting companies in their quest for greater circularity.