Sharing Economy UK launched to champion digital businesses

New trade body brings together digital businesses that encourage consumer and business asset-sharing, such as Airbnb and ZipCar

Digital businesses and startups specialising in the sharing economy have come together to form a new trade association, Sharing Economy UK (SEUK), to be launched by business, enterprise and energy minister Matthew Hancock.

The 21-strong association will seek to promote businesses that encourage the sharing of consumer or business assets, such as homes, cars and workspaces.

The association aims to act as a unified voice to recognise and address the challenges that face the sharing economy – which until now has operated largely on an informal basis and has been subject to legal crackdowns in some jurisdictions – and make the UK a centre for the sharing economy.

Its founding members include car-sharing firms ZipCar and easyCar Club, and home-swapping and holiday ventures Love Home Swap and Airbnb.

A number of other firms and organisations, including the Institute of Directors (IoD), Nesta, legal firm Osborne Clarke, PwC, Tech City and Tech UK, have also come on board to offer business advice and support.

Government review

The launch of SEUK comes in the wake of an independent review, Unlocking the UK’s Sharing Economy, commissioned by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in 2014.

The review document, which was written by Love Home Swap founder and inaugural SEUK chair Debbie Wossskow, recommended the formation of a trade body to enable sharing economy specialists to come together.

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“It was clear following the launch of the report that sharing economy businesses were overwhelmingly supportive of the idea of a trade body,” said Wosskow.

“The UK has all the tools to become the global home to sharing economy businesses, but to date our industry has been missing that one body to champion the sector.”

The voluntary membership group will look to develop a kitemark for responsible best practice, organise an annual conference, and commission research into the challenges facing sharing economy businesses, corporates and consumers.

Besides Wosskow, its board will consist of Andrew Saul, senior partner at Osborne Clarke; Patrick Robinson from Airbnb; Matthew McStravick of skills-trading startup Echo; and Alex Depledge from cleaning service

Osborne Clarke's Saul, who will occupy the deputy chairmanship at launch, said: “While connected consumers have been quick to see the benefits of home sharing or car-pooling, matters of insurance, regulation and tax continue to be a challenge for sharing economy businesses.

“Osborne Clarke has long supported the sharing economy community across Europe and the US and is currently advising many businesses on how to match their innovative business models with existing regulation.”

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