One size doesn’t fit all: business ethics and corporate governance for the sharing economy
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Sharing economy is a business model that allows individuals to share goods, offer services, and access these through specifically designed online platforms. Sharing economy businesses operate in a variety of different fields, with the most popular examples being ride-sharing and house-rental companies such as Airbnb, Uber, and Lyft. Mixing the personal with the professional, sharing economy businesses strive and usually manage to escape the regulatory grip on comparable non-sharing economy businesses that provide similar goods and services. Courts, regulators, competing businesses, and participants frequently raise concerns regarding public safety, privacy, and unfair competition. Regulators have the difficult job of balancing two concerns: On the one hand, excessive regulation might hinder innovation and deprive many people of a service that they obviously find helpful. On the other hand, insufficient regulation might create safety risks or insulate firms from liability. This paper approaches the sharing economy from the perspective of business ethics and corporate governance. It seeks to do two things: First, establish that a stakeholder oriented approach, rather than pure shareholder primacy, should guide self-governance by sharing economy businesses; and second, explain that this principle should be institutionalized through procedural corporate governance mechanisms. The second assertion is supported by a comparative analysis of different models of stakeholder engagement.