International Organization for Standardization (ISO)

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The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is a global agency that helps to provide diverse standards for industrial, commercial, and public use. Some of these relate to manufacturing and other physical industries, while others apply to digital technologies and other aspects of modern IT. The ISO has helped to shape the face of modern technology and communications.[1]

The International Organization for Standardization (“ISO”), an independent, non-governmental organization based in Geneva, Switzerland, is the world’s largest developer of voluntary International Standards with nearly 20,000 standards covering almost all aspects of technology and business from food safety to computers, and agriculture to healthcare as well as process standards such as ISO 9000 quality control. Its membership consists of national standards organizations (one official representative per country) from 164 countries. ISO standards are formed through a complex consensus procedure primarily in technical committees, of which there are over 3000. ISO also develops and distributes teaching materials and conducts member training programs. More than 150 people work full-time for ISO’s Central Secretariat. ISO maintains a repository of teaching materials as well as other resources.

  • Repository of teaching materials for higher education
  • Repository of studies on standards and innovation
  • Teaching materials developed by ISO for the University of Geneva Masters' program Standardization, Social Regulation and Sustainable Development. (This is a password-protected section of the ISO website, but the materials can be used by universities after receiving access from the local ISO member)
  • Repository of studies on the benefits of standards[2]

International Organization for Standardization (ISO), is a specialized international organization concerned with standardization in all technical and nontechnical fields except electrical and electronic engineering (the responsibility of the International Electrotechnical Commission [IEC]). Founded in Geneva in 1947, its membership extends to more than 160 countries. Each member is the national body “most representative of standardization in its country”; in Western industrial countries this is usually a private organization, such as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the British Standards Institution (BSI), but in most other countries it is a governmental organization. Standardization affects units of measurement; alphabetization and transliteration; specifications for parts, materials, surfaces, processes, tools, methods of testing, and machines; and even the form in which specifications are presented. ISO standards cover a variety of sectors, ranging from food safety to manufacturing to technology. Such standards help to facilitate international trade by establishing a quality and other criteria between countries and to protect consumers by ensuring that products and services are certified to meet international minimums. In addition, ISO standards enable the entry of firms into new markets, both locally and internationally, by facilitating the direct comparison of products across markets. Upon request, the ISO establishes international technical committees to investigate and resolve specific issues of standardization. Because of technological evolution, ISO standards are optimally reviewed for possible revision every five years.[3]

ISO Examples'[4]

Take a look at the graphical symbols on the dashboard of your car or at the pictorial symbol on a package marked with handling instructions such as “This way up”. Various ISO technical committees have developed or adopted hundreds of carefully researched signs and symbols that convey clear-cut messages which cross language boundaries. On the inside cover of nearly every book, there is something called an ISBN number. ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. Publishers and booksellers are very familiar with ISBN numbers since they are the key way that books are ordered and bought. Try buying a book on the Internet, and you will soon learn the value of the ISBN number there is a unique number for the book you want! And, it is based on an ISO standard. Almost everything you need and use for work and home comes from somewhere else. Whether departure and destination points are as close as A to B, or as far apart as Antwerp and Bangkok, freight containers ensure a smooth passage for your goods and materials. From truck to train, from boat to plane, there are more than five million freight containers transiting across the globe. This has become possible principally through international standardization. Yet another example: the chair that you’re probably sitting on, or the desk your computer is perched on, are held together by bolts and screws. Humble bolts and screws also hold together our children’s bicycles and also the aircraft we trust our lives to during business trips or holiday travel. The diversity of screw threads used to represent big problems for industry, particularly in maintenance, as lost or damaged nuts and bolts could not easily be replaced. A global solution is supplied in the ISO standards for metric screw threads. A last example: the credit card you may have used to buy your computer can be used worldwide because all its basic features are based on ISO standards. We are so familiar with many objects, like credit or telephone cards, that we tend to assume they just “fell out of the sky”. In fact, the ease with which we can use them can be traced back to an ISO standard.

ISO Certification - Principles and Benefits[5]


  • Document Control: Issuing a document with a reference and version number to ensure that the right document, is in the right place, at the right time.
  • Record Control: A record is a completed document. Record control is an efficient method of finding individual records. It can also refer to how you file, remove, archive, and destroy individual records.
  • Internal Review: An in-depth review of your management system, to ensure you are on track for your end-of-year validation audit. This also ensures the company satisfies internal audit requirements laid out in the standard.
  • Non-Conformance: A non-conformance is when something happens within the business that wasn’t planned. This could be:
    1. ) Internal e.g Out-of-date process/procedure, human error, etc. and
    2. ) External e.g Customer complaints, supplier issues, etc.
  • Corrective Action: A plan created by management to rectify a non-conformance (see above), and to prevent it from recurring
  • Preventative Action: An action to clarify and address potential risks to the business, with a view to reducing future non-conformance.

Each standard supports its own benefits within every industry, however, the common benefits across the certifications include widened market potential, compliance to procurement tenders, improved efficiency and cost savings, higher level of customer service, and therefore satisfaction, and heightened staff morale and motivation. Having a recognized management standard it tells your customers that you are serious about their needs.

See Also


Further Reading