Why Standards Matter
Standards make an enormous and positive contribution to most aspects of our lives.
Standards ensure desirable characteristics of products and services such as quality, environmental friendliness, safety, reliability, efficiency and interchangeability - and at an economical cost.
When products and services meet our expectations, we tend to take this for granted and be unaware of the role of standards. However, when standards are absent, we soon notice. We soon care when products turn out to be of poor quality, do not fit, are incompatible with equipment that we already have, are unreliable or dangerous.
When products, systems, machinery and devices work well and safely, it is often because they meet standards. And the organization responsible for many thousands of the standards which benefit the world is ISO.
When standards are absent, we soon notice.
- 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 trade officials, International Standards create "a level playing field" for all competitors on those markets. The existence of divergent national or regional standards can create technical barriers to trade. International Standards are the technical means by which political trade agreements can be put into practice.
- For developing countries, International Standards that represent an international consensus on the state of the art are an important source of technological know-how. By defining the characteristics that products and services will be expected to meet on export markets, International Standards give developing countries a basis for making the right decisions when investing their scarce resources and thus avoid squandering them.
- 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.
Every full member of ISO has the right to take part in the development of any standard which it judges to be important to its country's economy. No matter what the size or strength of that economy, each participating member in ISO has one vote. Each country is on an equal footing to influence the direction of ISO's work at the strategic level, as well as the technical content of its individual standards.
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.