ISO (International Organization for Standardization) is the world's largest and foremost developer and publisher of international standards. Because the organization is present globally, and the name "International Organization for Standardization" would be abbreviated differently in different countries, the founders chose the name "ISO," derived from the Greek term "isos," which means "equal." ISO is a non-governmental organization headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, and networks the regional standards institutes and regulatory bodies of 163 countries.
Bridging the Public and Private Sectors
The ISO structure, with one member institute per country, bridges the gap between the public and private sectors and facilitates exchange of information between regulators and businesses. In many countries, the member institute is a governmental entity, whereas in other countries, the member institute is a private entity. This part public-part private structure in different parts of the world enables ISO to develop standards and solutions that benefit both the business sector and society as a whole, making sure that one entity's interests are not prioritized over another.
Role of Standards
The ISO official site contends that "Standards make an enormous and positive contribution to most aspects of our lives." The importance of standards may be better appreciated when considering what would happen in its absence; when a product is made according to predefined standards and meets customer expectations, it is often taken for granted. However, in an environment without standards, people would very likely voice concerns about poor quality and unsafe products. Whether a business manufactures goods or provides services,when it meets standards relevant to its industry, it ensures that positive characteristics such as quality, durability, efficiency, safety and environmental friendliness are reinforced.
Benefits for Business
ISO standards benefit businesses because they can focus their resources on producing goods and services that are internationally standardized. With an industry-wide set of standards in place, businesses are better equipped to develop and offer products and services to foreign markets that recognize the same set of standards. ISO standards improve production by making each activity within the overall process, such as developing, manufacturing and supplying, more efficient. Standards also play a vital role in the development of high-tech goods. When a business innovates a new technology, international standards facilitate the development of terminology and compatibility, making the innovation marketable.
Benefits for Governments
For governments, standards provide tools to assess and evaluate conformity, and provide a legitimate base for health and safety legislation. Having standards in place also facilitates fairer trade between regions by ensuring that both the importer side and exporter side of foreign trade transactions know about the relevant set of standards. For governments in developing countries, ISO standards give information about expected attributes of products and services for export markets. This information gives a basis for governments to allocate resources accordingly, and produce goods and services that will be accepted in different regions.
Importance in Society
ISO standards benefit end consumers by safeguarding their interests and by ensuring that the products and services they purchase are safe and reliable. The standards also help to reduce environmental impact of business operations by publishing accepted levels of gas and radiation emission, and controlling the quality of water, air and soil. In addition, ISO standards drive the move toward sustainable productions processes; ISO synchronizes and aligns businesses to cleaner and safer production methods by laying down operational guidelines for different industries.
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