The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is a worldwide federation of national standards bodies from some 140 countries, one from each country.

ISO is a non-governmental organization, which began operating in 1947. The mission of ISO is to promote the development of standardization and related activities in the world, facilitate the international exchange of goods and services, and develop cooperation in the spheres of intellectual, scientific, technological and economic activity. ISO's work results in international agreements, published as international Standards.

Industry-wide standardization is a condition existing within a particular industrial sector when the large majority of products or services conform to the same standards. It results from consensus agreements reached between all economic players in that industrial sector - suppliers, users, and often governments. They agree on specifications and criteria to be applied consistently in the choice and classification of materials, the manufacture of products, and the provision of services. The aim is to facilitate trade, exchange and technology transfer through:

  • Enhanced product quality and reliability at a reasonable price
  • Improved health, safety and environmental protection and reduction of waste
  • Greater compatibility and interoperability of goods and services
  • Simplification for improved usability
  • Reduction in the number of models, and thus reduction in costs
  • Increased distribution efficiency, and ease of maintenance

Users have more confidence in products and services that conform to international Standards. Assurance of conformity can be provided by manufacturer's declarations, or by audits carried out by independent bodies.

The Need For International Standardization:
The existence of non-harmonized standards for similar technologies in different countries or regions can contribute to "technical barriers” to trade. Export minded industries have long sensed the need to agree on world standards to help rationalize the international trading process. This was the origin for ISO.

International standardization is now well established for many technologies in such diverse fields as information processing and communications, textiles, packaging, distribution of goods, energy production and utilization, shipbuilding, banking and financial services. It will continue to grow in importance for all sectors of industrial activity for the foreseeable future. The main reasons are:

  • Worldwide progress in trade liberalization
  • Interpenetration of sectors
  • Worldwide communication systems
  • Global standard needs for emerging technologies
  • Developing countries

The main publications of ISO are International Standards. ISO also issues the ISO Catalogue, standards handbooks, guides & pamphlets, and the bimonthly ISO 9000 & ISO 14000 News that provides updates on ISO’s management system standards, and case studies of their implementation worldwide.

Reprinted by permission from ISO, Geneva, Switzerland,

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