This year, The ISO, the International Organization for Standardization, is celebrating their 70th anniversary. They have come a long way from their humble beginnings back in 1946 and now has a membership of 162 national standards bodies. The ISO has to date published 21,582 standards providing world-class specifications for products, services and systems to ensure quality, safety and efficiency.
“For 70 years, ISO has made standards that have shaped our history and accompanied the world’s greatest innovations,” says ISO President Dr Zhang Xiaogang. “From the standardization of materials, components and equipment for the aerospace or automotive industry to the measurement of environmental pollutants, from establishing a management system to ensure food safety in the supply chain to creating guidelines for human-robot interaction, the need for international standardization has always evolved with the needs of industry and society.”
In 1946, delegates from 25 countries gathered at the Institute of Civil Engineers in London in order to create a new international organization ‘to facilitate the international coordination and unification of industrial standards’. It was on 23 February 1947 that the new organization officially opened its doors and began operations.
With the ending of World War Two in 1945, the founding members saw International Standards as a key to the world’s reconstruction efforts. The sole purpose of the organization in this era was to facilitate the coordination and unification of standards developed – which would be open to countries around the world with equal rights and equal duties. It is evident that the principles upon which the ISO was founded on, still ring true today, with the standards now covering almost all aspects of technology and business, ensuring positive change amongst numerous industries.
After its formation, 67 groups of experts were set up to specialise in their specific technical fields, such as food, textiles, laboratory, etc., to develop International Standards. In 1951, the first standard (at this point in time they were referred to as recommendations) was developed: Standard reference temperature for industrial length measurements.
Over the following years, The ISO has broadened its circle of stakeholders to bring different audiences to standardization – including third world countries. To respond to the needs of these growing members, the ISO set up the ISO Committee for developing country matters. It was also recognized that in order to improve the safety of consumers, their views would need to be heard in order to ensure the standards incorporated real-life perspectives. The importance of this consumer leverage was recognized through the creation of Council Committee on Consumer Policy in 1978.
One of the major goals of The ISO is to encourage innovation within industries. The ISO has built collaborative ties with a network of global and regional organisations, such as their partnership with the International Electrotechnical Commission and the International Telecommunication Union.
Some of the most popular standards the ISO has produced to date include:
- ISO 22000 Food safety management
- ISO 45001 Occupational health and safety
- ISO 9001 Quality management
- ISO 14001 Environmental management
- ISO 26000 Social responsibility
- ISO 31000 Risk management
- ISO 50001 Energy management
Standards in Progress
The ISO is constantly coming up with new Standards within industries, or revising old ones to ensure they still remain applicable and cover everything they need to. Here are some of the standards in progress at the moment:
- ISO 12812, Core banking – Mobile financial services
- ISO 8559 – this standard is aimed at defining how and where to measure the body for standardizing clothing sizes around the world.
- ISO 20519, Shops and marine technology – Specification for bunkering of liquefied natural gas fueled vessels.
- In 1988, ISO 8601, Data elements and interchange formats –information –interchange – Representation of dates and times, established a fool-proof format for computer users to ensure critical events happened on time. There is now a new draft in progress to update this standard.
“For the part 70 years, ISO has developed standards that drive industrial progress, promote global commerce and improve health, safety and the environment. But this is just the beginning,” says Dr Zhang. “Looking to the future, it is clear that our world faces many challenges that cut across national borders. Climate change, water scarcity, cyber security and large-scale migration are just some of the issues we face today that require integrated, international action.”
“The ISO community has many standards that can help organizations and companies address this agenda. We are ready to provide efficient tools to help the different communities worldwide face up to these challenges and shape a better world.” The future of standardization is promising.”