Societal changes shaping our future
In a changing world, standards need to keep up if they are to continue to meet the needs of society and support a more sustainable future.
While the rate at which our world evolves is perhaps not as fast as we might think, we do live in a place that looks somewhat different to just a few years ago. We are more numerous, more global and have more complex purchasing decisions to make. We expect to have businesses that act responsibly, honest leaders and a greener planet. We want to have more control over our destinies, but not at the expense of giving our privacy away.
We are also not getting any younger. By 2050, it is expected that the number of people aged 65 years or over will double to 1.5 billion and rise to 16 % of the population. This will dramatically alter the way societies and economies work and upset the balance of the workforce. How older adults find fulfilment, at what age they retire and their quality of life once they do are relatively new but important considerations.
Ageing populations are a real and growing issue for many governments and community providers because they place increased demands on areas such as healthcare, social security, accessibility and safety. Meanwhile, the younger generation are aware that they will one day have to carry the weight of the world, and thus are pushing for a better one. One where governments put people ahead of profits and our lifestyles are sustainable.
Big city living
At the same time, we are constantly moving, mostly into bigger urban areas. With the number of city dwellers soaring from 751 million people in 1950 to 4.2 billion in 2018, and expected to reach 6.7 billion in 2050, meeting the needs of cities now and anticipating those of the future is an ongoing challenge.
Cities need to plan well ahead in order to deliver the necessary resources and services for their populations to survive and thrive. Public transport, facilities, water supply, sanitation, energy, food and security are just some of the pressure points that will continue to be challenged by rising urbanization.
- World Population Ageing 2019 – Highlights, United Nations: New York, 2019
- The Deloitte Global 2021 Millennial and Gen Z Survey [accessed online]
Consumer behaviour has evolved dramatically in recent years.
The changing consumer
We are also buying more, and differently. Consumer behaviour has evolved dramatically in recent years, driven by the increased choice both of products to buy and ways to acquire them. Incredibly complex supply chains have given rise to consumer concerns about where their money is going and what they are getting in return. Transparency, traceability, personalized service and connected experiences are just some of what is expected and purchasers are far more likely to switch brands, either to find a better deal or to be more aligned with their values.
Consumers are critical partners helping to drive sustainable impact into our supply chains. Sadie Dainton, Chair of the ISO Committee on consumer policy (COPOLCO), says consumers are increasingly aware that their individual purchasing decisions and lifestyles have a collective global impact and have accelerated the need for tools to be able to make informed choices – as one action among many – to effect change.
The role of standards in supporting this has never been more apparent. “The explosion of social media use, sharing platforms and online reviews has facilitated this trend and generated new ideas for standards proposals along with promoting the sustainable consumer,” she explains. The need to know your customers is still as true today as it ever was and, with their behaviour changing rapidly, standards need to get ahead of the curve.
New expectations, new standards
The creation of a new ISO technical committee to deal with standards for the sharing economy is one example of this. One of today’s fastest-growing economic sectors, the sharing economy is transforming the traditional consumer journey. With thousands of different platforms dedicated to the cause, this collaborative approach stems, at least in part, from a desire to create communities and reduce overconsumption. This is empowering consumers more than ever and putting them in charge of how they search, purchase, experience and evaluate products, and covers everything from cars and clothes to houses and hotels. But while it’s great news for consumers, it doesn’t come without certain challenges such as issues over privacy, reliability, trustworthiness, working conditions and more.
The new ISO/TC 324, Sharing economy, was formed to resolve these issues and allow the industry to realize its full value-adding potential. Committee Chair Dr Masaaki Mochimaru believes standards can both accentuate the positive aspects of the sharing economy while reducing the risks and issues. “One of the key benefits of this new business model for an organization is the effective utilization of unused resources,” he enthuses. “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. These are all areas that standards can help with.”
- What Are Customer Expectations, and How Have They Changed? [accessed online]