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ISO (International Organization for Standardization) is the world’s largest developer and publisher of International Standards.
ISO is a network of the national standards institutes of 162 countries, one member per country, with a Central Secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland, that coordinates the system.
ISO is a non-governmental organization that forms a bridge between the public and private sectors. On the one hand, many of its member institutes are part of the governmental structure of their countries, or are mandated by their government. On the other hand, other members have their roots uniquely in the private sector, having been set up by national partnerships of industry associations.
Therefore, ISO enables a consensus to be reached on solutions that meet both the requirements of business and the broader needs of society.
Because “International Organization for Standardization” would have different acronyms in different languages (“IOS” in English, “OIN” in French for Organisation internationale de normalisation), its founders decided to give it also a short, all-purpose name. They chose “ISO”, derived from the Greek isos, meaning “equal”. Whatever the country, whatever the language, the short form of the organization’s name is always ISO.
- make the development, manufacturing and supply of products and services more efficient, safer and cleaner
- facilitate trade between countries and make it fairer
- provide governments with a technical base for health, safety and environmental legislation, and conformity assessment
- share technological advances and good management practice
- disseminate innovation
- safeguard consumers, and users in general, of products and services
- make life simpler by providing solutions to common problems
ISO standards provide technological, economic and societal benefits.
For businesses, the widespread adoption of International Standards means that suppliers can develop and offer products and services meeting specifications that have wide international acceptance in their sectors. Therefore, businesses using International Standards can compete on many more markets around the world.
For innovators of new technologies, International Standards on aspects like terminology, compatibility and safety speed up the dissemination of innovations and their development into manufacturable and marketable products.
For customers, the worldwide compatibility of technology which is achieved when products and services are based on International Standards gives them a broad choice of offers. They also benefit from the effects of competition among suppliers.
For governments, International Standards provide the technological and scientific bases underpinning health, safety and environmental legislation.
For consumers, conformity of products and services to International Standards provides assurance about their quality, safety and reliability.
For everyone, International Standards contribute to the quality of life in general by ensuring that the transport, machinery and tools we use are safe.
For the planet we inhabit, International Standards on air, water and soil quality, on emissions of gases and radiation and environmental aspects of products can contribute to efforts to preserve the environment.
ISO standards are voluntary. As a non-governmental organization, ISO has no legal authority to enforce the implementation of its standards. ISO does not regulate or legislate. However, countries may decide to adopt ISO standards – mainly those concerned with health, safety or the environment – as regulations or refer to them in legislation, for which they provide the technical basis. In addition, although ISO standards are voluntary, they may become a market requirement, as has happened in the case of ISO 9001 quality management systems, or of dimensions of freight containers and bank cards.
ISO itself does not regulate or legislate.
ISO only develops standards for which there is a market requirement. The work is mainly carried out by experts from the industrial, technical and business sectors which have asked for the standards, and which subsequently put them to use.
ISO standards are based on international consensus among the experts in the field. Consensus, like technology, evolves and ISO takes account both of evolving technology and of evolving interests by requiring a periodic review of its standards at least every five years to decide whether they should be maintained, updated or withdrawn. In this way, ISO standards retain their position as the state of the art.
ISO standards are technical agreements which provide the framework for compatible technology worldwide. They are designed to be globally relevant – useful everywhere in the world.
ISO standards are useful everywhere in the world.
In paper form, an ISO standard is published in A4 format – which is itself one of the ISO standard paper sizes. It may be anywhere between a four-page document and one several hundred pages’ long. ISO standards are also available as electronic downloads and many are available as part of a collection on CD or in handbook. An ISO standard carries the ISO logo and the designation, “International Standard“.