Sustainability in the Age of Platforms: 11 June, Brussels

26.03.2019

 

Background and Objectives

The digital economy is changing business around the world, creating a more efficient intermediation of supply and demand for goods and services. It is disrupting sectors from commerce to transportation and accommodation to finance, while allowing consumers unprecedented connectivity and convenience.

At the same time as changing the nature of work around the world, the digital economy is generating new job opportunities. Online platforms have the undoubted potential of creating new solutions as well as new risks in the field of social sustainability – including decent work, empowering women, anti-discrimination, and inclusiveness. In this regard, platforms may result in new opportunities – particularly for people facing marginalisation in the traditional labour market and workers in the informal sector in emerging economies – to pursue entrepreneurial opportunities, participate in more formalised and secure work, and empower themselves. On the other hand, platforms may sidestep responsibilities that are typically the domain of employers, such as non-discrimination practices and safe working standards. Workers and the wider society will really benefit if the rules of the games are fair and platforms do not lead to a ‘race to the bottom’.

By enabling new forms of sustainable consumption and fostering behavioural change among consumers, the platform economy can also play a pivotal role in the field of environmental sustainability, leading to a more efficient use of resources and to a better functioning of supply chains. For instance, digital platforms can increase consumer awareness about their environmental footprint and contribute to improving their consumption choices; they can also become central actors in the shift towards a more circular economy. On the other hand, the platform economy may also entail negative effects for the environment, leading to more consumption and waste and more goods travelling long distances, as well as higher energy consumption due to its data-intensive nature.

Against this background, GIZ, the Academy of Internet Science and CEPS is gathering policy-makers, businesses and academics to answer some fundamental questions:

  • Is the platform economy sustainable? And if not, how can its sustainability be ensured?
  • What are the social and environmental impacts of the platform economy?
  • How do impacts vary across different parts of the world?
  • What lessons and best practices from the platform economy can help achieve the SDGs?

Find the full agenda here.