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INSEAD Prof. Craig Smith Wins Case Centre Award for Study on Uber & Ethics of Sharing

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Professor N Craig Smith, the INSEAD Chaired Professor of Ethics and Corporate Responsibility, has won the ‘Ethics and Social Responsibility’ category at The Case Centre Awards and Competitions 2019.

He had co-authored the case “Uber and the Ethics of Sharing: Exploring the Societal Promises and Responsibilities of the Sharing Economy” with Erin McCormick, a case writer at INSEAD.

Prof Smith, who has won the award in this category for the third time, said, “The three cases which won the Ethics and Social Responsibility category have each been for those that tackle significant current issues — labour rights in the supply chain (Walmart), access to essential medicines (GSK) — and now the ethics and responsibilities of the new digital economy businesses such as Uber.

‘So, I think they have been timely and resonated well with faculty and student interests,” he added.

“There is often room for just one successful platform in a market, and the ‘winner takes it all’. It’s no surprise that old monopoly concerns are arising anew,”

According to the Case Centre, explaining the topic, Uber, a ride-hailing service worth $60billion, is popular and controversial in equal measure. While boasting tens of millions of customers worldwide, its reluctance to abide by government regulations and threatening the very existence of the taxi industry, has angered many.

The context for the case is that in the last few years, the sharing economy has exploded, with internet platforms and smartphone applications such as Uber, Airbnb and JustPark allowing people to rent out their driving, accommodation and parking services, to name just a few.

The question is that along with this growth, whether the sharing economy has lived up to the early vision of ‘sharing’ among ‘peers’. Aggressive market share tactics deployed by companies like Uber suggest it has not, Case Centre said.

Uber, then Ubercab, had started operations in the San Francisco area in summer 2010. It has since gone on to operate in 300 cities worldwide. However, by 2016 taxi drivers in Paris were rioting in the streets in protest against the company’s lack of respect for rules and regulations of the trade. Other protests have happened in Boston, London, Rio de Janeiro, Guangzhou and Mexico City.

“There is often room for just one successful platform in a market, and the ‘winner takes it all’. It’s no surprise that old monopoly concerns are arising anew,” Felix Barber of Ashridge Business School was quoted in the case.

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The case study found that sharing economy companies had rocketed up the agendas of the world’s highest-ranking governing agencies in recent years. The European Commission was seriously considering whether to regulate ridesharing on a European level, while the Democrats and Republicans in the US have taken the opposing views of lining up on the side of the regulations and calling for unfettered free enterprise.

The study also looked at the changes fashioned by the ‘sharing economy’. It examined the innovations and controversies surrounding Uber and provided a unique overview of the challenges posed by new business models which use the internet to link individual providers of goods and services to customers.

“Unlike many of the other cases out there on Uber, this case focuses explicitly on how the business has grown from an ethics and social responsibility perspective, particularly in its social and environmental impacts,” Prof Smith said.

It also provides ample scope for generalisation beyond the one company, asking fundamental questions about the extent to which digital platforms like Uber, Airbnb or Facebook have the same responsibilities as the traditional businesses they are replacing,” he added.

Now in its 29th year, The Case Centre’s Awards and Competitions celebrate excellence in case writing and teaching at schools of business, management and government worldwide. The awards and accolades offer recognition to cases in nine management categories used in the largest number of organisations across the globe in the past year.

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