The organization now called ISO started in 1926 as the International Federation of National Standards Associations (ISA). Founded on 23 February 1947 by a group of delegates from 25 countries, the original 67 ISO technical committees came together with the common goal of ensuring the safety, reliability, and quality of products and services. The first ISO standard, entitled “ISO / R 1: 1951”, was first published in 1951 to establish a standard reference temperature for industrial length measurements. Today, this standard still exists (after many updates) as ISO 1: 2002.
Over the next few decades, ISO created committees and published standards for everything from container measurement units to environmental quality. It was not until 1987 that ISO 9001, one of the most recognized standards today, was published as the first ISO quality management standard. The ISO 14001 environmental standard followed shortly after 1996, and since then ISO has only increased its production of new guidelines, diversifying into areas such as information security, social responsibility, energy management and even the integrity of the company.
After celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2017, ISO is now a powerful player in international industries. Today, with 22,401 international standards covering all aspects of trade and technology and members from 162 countries, ISO is looking to the future of quality and safety certification.
Standards are important in international trade because incongruous standards can be barriers to trade, which benefits some organizations in some parts of the world. The standards provide identifiable, internationally recognized benchmarks and encourage fair competition in market economies. Standards facilitate exchanges by improving the quality and reliability of products, enhancing interoperability and compatibility, facilitating maintenance and reducing costs. ISO covers a wide range of standards except electrical and electronic engineering standards covered by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), telecommunication standards covered by the International Telegraph Union (ITU), and telecommunications technologies.
The term “ISO” is a borrowed Greek word “isos” which means “equal.” (The relationship with standards is that if two objects meet the same standards, they must be identical). This name eliminates any confusion that may result from the translation of “International Organization for Standardization” into different languages, which would give several acronyms.
ISO is a voluntary organization whose members have recognized standardization authorities, each representing a country. Most of ISO’s work is carried out by 2700 technical committees, subcommittees, and working groups. Each committee and sub-committee is headed by a secretariat of one of the organization’s member. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is the US ISO representative. The ANSI ASC Z-1 / ASQ Standards Group coordinates US representation in ISO Technical Committees 176 and 207, which deal with ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 respectively.
The International Organization for Standardization is an independent non-governmental organization whose members are the standardization organizations of the 168 member countries. It is the world’s largest developer of voluntary international standards and facilitates global trade by providing standards common to all countries. More than twenty thousand standards have been established, ranging from manufactured goods and technology to food security, agriculture and health.
The use of standards contributes to the creation of safe, reliable and good quality products and services. Standards help companies increase productivity while minimizing errors and wastage. By allowing products from different markets to be compared directly, they enable companies to access new markets and contribute to the equitable development of global trade. The standards also serve to protect consumers and end-users of products and services by ensuring that certified products meet internationally established minimum standards.