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What is ISO?

What is ISO? What is it used for?


The ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation) is a non-governmental and independent organisation. Its primary role involves formulating standards to guarantee the quality, safety, and effectiveness of various products, services, and systems.

To comply with ISO standards, your business must establish precise objectives, standardize processes, and effectively communicate them to your employees.

Understanding the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO)

In 1947, a group established the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) with its headquarters located in Geneva, Switzerland. Originally, during the 1920s, it emerged as the International Federation of the National Standardising Associations (ISA). However, World War II led to its suspension. Subsequently, the United Nations Standards Coordinating Committee (UNSCC) put forward the idea of creating a fresh global standards entity, resulting in the formation of the International Organisation for Standardisation.

Operating across 167 countries, the ISO engages with the leading standards bodies from each nation as its members, with one member representing each country. Although ISO membership is exclusive to standards organisations and not open to individuals or companies, there exist multiple avenues through which industry experts can actively cooperate with the organization.

Every year, ISO members convene at a General Assembly to deliberate on the organisation’s strategic goals. Furthermore, a council consisting of 20 individuals with a membership that rotates periodically is responsible for offering direction and overseeing the governance of the organization.

Activities of the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO)

The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) significantly influences global trade by creating and publishing a wide range of standards. These standards, numbering over 24,362 and catalogued across various domains such as healthcare, engineering, and metallurgy, cover an extensive range of products, materials, and processes. In addition to the standards, ISO actively publishes technical reports, specifications, guides, and other valuable resources. Beyond its role in trade, ISO ensures that products and services adhere to internationally recognized quality and safety benchmarks, offering consumers the assurance of conformity to rigorous standards.”

– The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) develops and publishes standards covering a wide range of products, materials, and processes.

– The organization’s ISO Standards catalogue encompasses more than 24,362 standards, organized into segments like healthcare technology, railway engineering, clothing, metallurgy, and more.

– In addition to standards, ISO produces technical reports, technical specifications, publicly available specifications, technical corrigenda, and guides.

– ISO holds a crucial role in promoting global trade by establishing common standards that countries can adhere to.

– These standards ensure the safety, reliability, and quality of products and services.

– For consumers, ISO standards guarantee that certified products meet internationally recognized quality benchmarks.

– Some ISO standards have become so ubiquitous that the term “ISO” is used to describe products adhering to those standards. For instance, a photographic film’s sensitivity to light is denoted by its ISO number (like ISO 6, ISO 2240, and ISO 5800).

What Is ISO 9000?

ISO 9000 stands as a standard emphasizing quality management and assurance. Businesses employ this standard to construct and uphold their quality systems. The primary objective of ISO 9000 is to be applicable across various industries. Its key areas of emphasis encompass managing relationships, prioritizing customer needs, and exhibiting effective leadership.

Organizational Structure

ISO 9001, a significant guideline, primarily centres on quality but also encompasses directions regarding organisational structure. Quality and organisational structure work in tandem: adhering to ISO 9001’s instructions demonstrates a commitment to enhancing both business processes and quality within the organization.

It all commences with the organisational structure: How are departments structured? Who reports to whom? How will decision-making flow? This aspect warrants attention, as it will significantly impact the forthcoming coverage of business processes.

Business processes

In relation to business processes, any business should aim to enhance them. ISO 9001 guidance delves into business process improvement and management. After establishing a meaningful organisational structure, the subsequent step entails creating efficient processes.

Risk management

Furthermore, organisations encounter daily risks and threats, particularly in today’s era of cyber threats and malicious software. Every business decision carries inherent risk, spanning internal and external factors. While ISO 31000 presents recommendations for risk management, following them remains optional.

Designed by the ISO Technical Management Board Working Group specializing in risk management, this guideline centres on the principles, framework, and process of risk management. ISO 31000 serves as a tool to furnish you with the framework required to formulate your risk management strategy.

Benefits of ISO certification 

ISO certification brings about several benefits for organisations:

  1. Enhanced Credibility: ISO certification showcases a commitment to quality and international standards, boosting an organization’s credibility among customers, partners, and stakeholders.
  2. Improved Quality: ISO standards emphasize quality management, leading to better processes, products, and services.
  3. Increased Customer Satisfaction: By adhering to ISO standards, organisations address customer needs effectively, leading to higher satisfaction levels.
  4. Streamlined Processes: ISO standards encourage the establishment of efficient and streamlined processes, reducing errors and wastage.
  5. Better Decision-Making: ISO’s structured approach enhances data-driven decision-making and performance evaluation.
  6. Global Recognition: ISO certification is internationally recognized, facilitating business expansion and collaboration across borders.
  7. Competitive Edge: ISO-certified organisations stand out in the market, gaining a competitive advantage over non-certified counterparts.
  8. Employee Morale: ISO’s focus on leadership and process improvement can lead to an improved work environment and higher employee morale.
  9. Risk Management: ISO standards often include risk management aspects, helping organisations identify and mitigate potential risks.
  10. Regulatory Compliance: ISO certification can aid in meeting regulatory requirements, ensuring adherence to industry-specific standards.
  11. Efficient Documentation: ISO standards encourage proper documentation, aiding in consistency and knowledge retention.
  12. Cost Savings: Improved processes and reduced errors result in cost savings in the long run.
  13. Supplier Relationships: ISO certification can strengthen relationships with suppliers by ensuring consistent quality standards.
  14. Innovation: ISO’s focus on continuous improvement can foster innovation and adaptation to changing market demands.
  15. Sustainability: Some ISO standards address environmental and social responsibilities, promoting sustainable practices.
  16. Management Alignment: ISO standards align various levels of management toward common objectives and goals.

Overall, ISO certification offers a comprehensive framework for organisations to achieve operational excellence, customer satisfaction, and sustained growth.

Use of ISO

ISO is utilized for achieving various objectives:

  1. Enhancing Quality: ISO is employed to enhance and maintain the quality of products, services, and processes.
  1. Ensuring Compliance: ISO helps ensure compliance with industry-specific standards and regulations.
  1. Boosting Credibility: Organisations use ISO to enhance their credibility by demonstrating adherence to international standards.
  2. Improving Efficiency: ISO aids in streamlining processes and operations for improved efficiency.
  3. Increasing Customer Satisfaction: ISO is used to address customer needs and enhance satisfaction through standardized practices.
  4. Managing Risk: Organisations utilize ISO to identify, assess, and manage risks in their operations.
  5. Driving Innovation: ISO’s principles foster a culture of continuous improvement and innovation.
  6. Expanding Market Access: ISO certification facilitates entry into global markets by meeting recognized standards.
  7. Strengthening Supplier Relationships: ISO helps establish consistent quality standards for stronger supplier relationships.
  1. Promoting Sustainability: Certain ISO standards address environmental and social responsibilities, promoting sustainable practices.

In essence, ISO serves as a versatile tool for organisations to achieve quality, consistency, compliance, and growth across various domains.


Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about ISO are-

Q: What is the purpose of ISO standards?

A: ISO standards provide internationally recognized guidelines and specifications to ensure consistency, safety, quality, and efficiency across various products, services, and processes.

Q: How does ISO benefit organisations?

A: ISO certification can enhance credibility, improve product quality, streamline processes, boost customer satisfaction, and facilitate global market access.

Q: How can ISO certification be obtained?

A: Organisations can seek ISO certification through a certification body that assesses their adherence to specific ISO standards. Successful compliance leads to certification.

Q: What are some common ISO standards?

A: Common ISO standards include ISO 9001 (Quality Management), ISO 14001 (Environmental Management), ISO 27001 (Information Security Management), and ISO 45001 (Occupational Health and Safety).

Q: Is ISO only applicable to manufacturing industries?

A: No, ISO standards cover a wide range of industries, including manufacturing, services, healthcare, IT, agriculture, and more.

Q: How does ISO promote risk management?

A: ISO standards often include risk management aspects, encouraging organisations to identify, assess, and mitigate risks in their processes and operations.

Q: Can ISO help with international trade?

A: Yes, ISO standards facilitate international trade by providing common benchmarks for quality and safety, which can help organisations navigate cross-border transactions.

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Q: Does ISO encourage innovation?

A: Yes, ISO’s focus on continuous improvement and standardized practices can foster a culture of innovation within organisations.

Q: How long does ISO certification last?

A: ISO certification typically requires periodic audits to ensure ongoing compliance. The certification duration can vary depending on the standard and the certification body.

Q: Can small businesses benefit from ISO certification?

A: Yes, ISO standards can benefit businesses of all sizes by promoting best practices, efficiency, and customer satisfaction.

Q: Can ISO help organisations become more sustainable?

A: Yes, some ISO standards, such as ISO 14001, address environmental management and sustainability practices, guiding organisations toward more responsible operations.

Q: What is the relationship between ISO and national standards bodies?

A: ISO collaborates with national standards bodies from different countries to develop and maintain international standards that are widely accepted and adopted.

Q: Is ISO limited to a specific region or country?

A: No, ISO is a global organization, and its standards are recognized and used internationally to ensure consistency and quality across borders.

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