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ISO standards as a lingua franca

Bring two people together who don’t speak the same language and they are mutually incomprehensible. Little, if anything, can be achieved. But give them a common tongue – a lingua franca – and they can understand each other, negotiate, share ideas, trade, improve and innovate.

This is exactly what ISO Standards do. They’re a set of voluntary international standards that are applied to every aspect of human life: from food, to toys, to technology, to business – right through to climate change. When two countries at opposite sides of the globe share the same standards, they’re essentially speaking the same language.

In fact, the ISO name itself speaks volumes. It comes from the Greek ‘isos’, meaning equal. When things are equal, stuff works.

The International Organisation for Standardisation was founded in 1947, and published its first standard just a few years later. In 2017, that number has swelled to 2,1755 standards, with 162 participating countries. The world, quite frankly, has ‘got it’. As a result, a total of 1,519,952 certificates were issued worldwide in 2015, compared to 1,476,504 the previous year, an increase of 3%. And this number is only going to increase.

What they do for SMEs

For SMEs, ISO standards can help them compete on a level playing field with bigger companies. Take ISO 9001 – Quality Management, for example. If any company – no matter the size – has achieved certification in this standard, consumers can have equal confidence in the quality of their business processes and product standards as compared to a big corporate.

What they do for health and safety

ISO standards protect us in all aspects of life – from ISO 45001 that ensures construction site safety, to standards regulating food preparation and labelling, to guaranteeing that toys designed for infants don’t have sharp edges. Such standards not only increase consumer confidence and customer satisfaction, but save money, enhance the well-being of consumers and employees, and – ultimately – save lives.

What they do for our planet

Our planet’s resources are finite, and our climate is warming at an alarming rate. But we can all play a part in minimising our negative impact on the environment. ISO 14001 empowers businesses of any size to adopt efficient environmental managements practices that really make a change. Practices that use energy efficiently, minimise waste, and even reduce costs.

Standards are more than a set of rules or aspirations. They’re a global language we should all learn to speak, to save both ourselves and our planet.

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