Business

U.K. Government to Sharing Economy: Start a Trade Group!

A new independent report commissioned by the U.K. government has a number of tips to encourage the growth of the so-called sharing economy, which it sees as a fast-moving economic engine. High up on the list: a recommendation that the industry launch a trade group.

Like rock music, the United Kingdom is ready to embrace something created in another part of the world—in this case, the sharing economy—and make it distinctly its own.

Last month, the U.K. government released an independent report it commissioned, “Unlocking the Sharing Economy” [PDF], which highlights the United Kingdom’s potential to take an industry known for its embrace of technology and turn it into an economic engine that the U.K. could bank on for decades to come.

That is different from how sharing-economy firms like Instacart and Airbnb are being treated in the U.S. The U.K. is intentionally taking a different approach, according to Matthew Hancock, the U.K. minister of state for business, enterprise, and energy.

A trade body for the sharing economy can both help platforms to work better together on common issues and build consumer confidence.

“The U.K. is embracing new, disruptive business models and challenger businesses that increase competition and offer new products and experiences for consumers,” Hancock wrote in the foreword to the report. “Where other countries and cities are closing down consumer choice and limiting people’s freedom to make better use of their possessions, we are embracing it.”

One way that the U.K. government thinks it can embrace the sharing economy is by launching a trade group.

The report, written by Debbie Wosskow, CEO of the home-sharing firm Love Home Swap, suggests that launching an industry body to represent sharing-economy businesses could improve self-regulation, boost investments into U.K.-based sharing firms, and provide lobbying support.

“There are common issues that affect all or many of the organizations and platforms working across the sharing economy. As a relatively new sector, it is often (unjustly) characterized by the press as an unregulated ‘wild west,’” Wosskow writes in the report. “A trade body for the sharing economy can both help platforms to work better together on common issues and build consumer confidence.”

If the government can figure out how to embrace the industry, the future could be bright. The report cites research by the U.K. charity Nesta, which shows that a quarter of all adults in the U.K. are embracing the sharing economy in some way.

Globally, the results could be massive: An August PricewaterhouseCoopers report suggests that revenues from the sharing economy could top $335 billion globally by 2025, with $14 billion of that being generated by the U.K. economy alone.

Who says sharing can’t pay off?

(iStock/Thinkstock)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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