ISO - International Organization for Standardization and Why it Matters

ISO - International Organization for Standardization and Why it Matters

Much of the world we live in today revolves around the industry, whether through our work or the products we consume daily. We are constantly shopping, eating, browsing, traveling, and coming into contact with many businesses and products.

But how do we know that what we’re doing is safe, and how is our safety regulated to ensure everyone stays happy and healthy?

The ISO, or International Organisation for Standards, aims to promote the best ways and methods of ensuring safety and good practice in many areas and aspects of the industry.

First, a little bit about the ISO as an organization: they are an independent, non-government body of 165 member states, with headquarters based in Geneva, Switzerland. So, why do we trust this decentralized group to assess industry conformity regulations? Well, since 1946, ISO has been meeting to discuss standardization. Their aim was for each member to be able to partake in the standardization discussion. In fact, ISO, an acronym that undoubtedly varies language-to-language, actually derives from the Greek ‘isos’, meaning equal. ISO produced its first international standard in 1951; it has continuously pursued standards for the safety and good of the planet.

Who decides on what becomes a standard? Naturally, producing an internationally recognized standard is vital to work. It requires much authority, which is why you’ll be pleased to hear that standards are defined by industry experts (called CASCO) who know what a company or industry needs to produce quality, safe, effective work. Before any industry standard is published, it goes through drafting, reviewing, voting and publication, ensuring every standard is fairly regulated. 

ISO has almost 24,000 standards, spanning many different types of regulation: quality management, environmental management, health and safety, energy management, food safety, and IT security. As a result, ISO can also proudly say that they contribute to all of the global sustainable development goals.

So, on a grander scale, why do ISO standards matter so much? First, the ability to provide quality assurance and international standardization is something we definitely take for granted. There was no standardization process for much of history, and therefore no safety net for when things went wrong. Promoting industry standards gives us a sense of assurance that things are done safely and correctly; it gives us one less thing to worry about. Second, the benefits of conformity assessment are manifold; it provides consumers with confidence, gives businesses a competitive edge, and helps regulators ensure health, safety, and other standardized conditions are met. This contributes to making the world a better, safer place for everyone because everyone is a consumer when it comes down to it!

International Standards are developed with several key principles in mind. First, standards are developed in response to need, so they are developed in the interest of customers and stakeholders worldwide. Second, industry groups and unions communicate what they need to be standardized, growing from there. Second, because global experts develop these standards, their collective expertise is used to define the scope and breadth of the standard as it is built. All terms are negotiated and rigorously considered. Experts come from a range of backgrounds, whom all have relevant but varied knowledge of the industry, meaning many different opinions and ideas are used in the development process. Everything posted by the experts is considered the outcome, making it a consensus-based process that leads to a logical outcome. On the surface, this process works in six stages: proposal, preparatory, committee, inquiry, approval, and publication.

What you may not realize about the benefit of international standards is that they change not only the big things but some of the most minute details of industry that we often don’t even think about. For example, ISO 639 standardized the way we describe languages. The purpose of this was bibliographic, computerization, and improved the easy representation of different languages. This is probably something we don’t even stop to think about. A standard that we’re probably more aware of is 22000, food safety management. This regulation ensures that no matter what the food is, producers have a responsibility to prioritize the wellbeing of their consumers and guarantee the safety of their products. Of course, the dangers of unsafe food are all familiar with, so we can easily understand why these regulations become so vital on a global scale.

Did you know that you can get ISO certified? ISO certification is a process by which you can assure that your business or organization meets standardization requirements that promote good practice and ensure that your work is consistent and in line with the forefront of developments globally.

 Three processes result in ISO certification:

  •  Certification is a written assurance that a service or product meets the specific requirements to gain an ISO qualification. An independent body provides this. However, many companies choose certification in a general business-standard such as 9001 to show their business is effectively managed.
  • Testing – this is where the written assurance is put to the test. Qualities or characteristics of an object or system are tested in a laboratory to ensure the standard is met.
  • Inspection – after the above two tests, regular checking is performed to ensure that it continues to meet the certification criteria, just as smoke alarms are regularly tested to ensure that they are useful in an emergency.

 Why should your company get ISO certified? Here are a few reasons:

  • The credibility of ISO means that obtaining certification places your company in a great position and will improve your image, potentially even on a global scale.
  • Standardizing your practices means simplifying many aspects of your business, too – by ensuring consistency and safety, everything will be done by a certain process that is the same every time.
  • While it shouldn’t be the only reason you seek ISO certification, procuring said standard satisfies customers. It gives them a sense of reassurance towards your business and the products they are consuming.
  • By gaining an ISO certification, you can seek to improve the quality of the product you provide for the environment and industry and the direct impact on your consumers. Having consistent operations should also make working easier in the long run.
  • If your business already prides itself on meticulous quality, environmental benefits, or helping consumers, it makes sense to gain the backing of ISO in proving your intentions; it can also help you with resources and guidance on having a more ethical business.

When you decide to certify your business or product, there are several things you should make sure of first. First, make sure you choose an appropriate standard that meets the criteria you want to prove about your idea or object.

Finding a good fit shouldn’t be hard, and once you have it, you should know that it meets your broader objectives as a business. Sometimes there may be multiple standards that you feel would be beneficial, but many standards are so similar that you can likely become standardized in both at once. Then, both certifications can be completed at the same time.

You will not be certified by the ISO itself. Instead, you need to go through a certification body that will provide the qualification. Therefore, it’s important to put ample research into the process before selecting a certification body. You should read reviews, understand their qualifications as a certification body, and look for government accreditations supporting them. Don’t settle for anything less than helpful.

Ensure everyone from the company to your stakeholders is knowledgeable about ISO certifications and understands how applying the ISO implementations will help you. Sometimes it works best to offer training about ISO standards because, as you’ll remember, ISO standards are important for a cohesive workplace and aim to improve upon the standards already in place.

ISO standards are not simply about improving the image of a company or workplace; they are about committing to practical benefits that impact everyone from consumers to stakeholders in your business. It is a choice that promises to improve industries and, in turn, the world around us fairly and with awareness for what we need today. As standardization occurs, safety, quality, and value increase globally, and the more people who choose to partake, the greater momentum this can bring.

To conclude, ISO standards are a rigorously tested methodology that provides greater assurance that, as consumers and stakeholders, jobs are being done properly, with cohesive structures and in a way that everybody can understand equally. When we choose to standardize according to ISO, we listen to experts about what industries and individuals need.

Choosing to certify your business benefits you in your work and, in turn, helps to build better relations with clients, citizens, and other organizations about the quality of work being done. 

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