It is one of the fastest-growing areas of the world economy, and it’s not slowing. Books, cars, flats and everything in between is up for sharing these days, and it’s big business. ISO has recently established a technical committee to support this new business model in reaching its full potential.
A lot has changed in the sharing economy in the ten or so years since the likes of Airbnb and Uber were launched. Then, there were just a handful of platforms, now there are literally thousands, some doing better than others. A few are going bankrupt, while others are worth a fortune, such as Uber, which was recently valued at USD 120 billion1).
The sharing economy was born, at least in part, with the spirit of creating communities and reducing over-consumption. While some of that remains, there has also been a sharp shift of focus towards price and convenience, bringing with it as many opportunities as challenges. Consumers may pay less and get new forms of goods, services or experiences, but questions are sometimes raised over privacy, reliability or trustworthiness. There are also issues related to working conditions, providing convenience for some, precarity for others. Some believe that issues such as these are preventing the sharing economy from reaching its full potential.2)
Standardization can reduce these woes and exploit the benefits that such a business model can bring, by providing internationally-agreed ways of working that take into account everyone’s needs: consumers, business and government. In 2017 ISO stepped in, bringing together some of the world’s leading experts on the subject to develop high-level international guidance and a foundation for future standards in the form of IWA 27, Guiding principles and framework for the sharing economy.
This document provides guiding principles and a framework for decision making and actions to take to address key social, environmental and economic impacts and opportunities.
ISO has now taken it much further by creating a dedicated ISO technical committee, ISO/TC 324, Sharing economy, charged with developing international standards in this field.
Technical committee Chair, Dr Masaaki Mochimaru, said standards can both accentuate the positive aspects of the sharing economy and reduce the risks and issues.
“One of the key benefits of this new business model for an organization is the effective utilization of unused resources.”
“On the flip side, however, there are potential risks related to transparency and accountability, safety and security and other issues such as protecting workers and managing the platforms. All of which are areas that standards can help with.”
One of the first steps for ISO/TC 324 will be to define internationally-agreed principles and terminology to enhance a common understanding amongst all those involved in the sharing economy, thus capitalizing on IWA 27.
Following that, they intend to work on standards for the operation and management of sharing-economy platforms.
The committee currently consists of representatives from all sectors of society from 30 countries, with the secretariat held by JISC, ISO’s member for Japan.
Dr Mochimaru pointed out that while there is a diverse array of countries represented, ISO/TC 324 would welcome even more, particularly from developing countries.