ISO, an acronym for International Organization for Standardization is the largest and most renowned organization that is responsible for the development and subsequent publication of internationally accepted standards. Through a collaboration of the national standards institutes of 157 countries (member bodies), international liaisons, regional cooperation and partner organizations, ISO constitutes a leading platform for the production of globally relevant industrial standards (“ISO”, 2008).
ISO, a non-governmental organization, originated in 1946 when delegates from 25 countries met in London and agreed to create an international organization with the objective of facilitating international coordination and unification of industrial standards. Operations began on February 23, 1947 in Geneva, Switzerland. “ISO” is derived from the Greek word isos, meaning “equal” (“ISO”, 2008). The existence of ISO enables an agreement to be reached on solutions and standards that fulfil the needs of both business and society; it is responsible for determining the standards that benefit the world.
It ensures that features of products and services such as quality, environmental friendliness, safety, reliability, effectiveness and efficiency are available and affordable (“ISO”, 2008). ISO’s contribution to the development of standards ranges from traditional activities such as agriculture and construction, through mechanical engineering, manufacturing and distribution, to transport, medical devices,
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ISO’s operations are managed by a Secretary-General who reports to the ISO Council. The Council is chaired by a President elected for a period of two years. ISO members are representatives of ISO for their countries and are divided into three categories which are: 1) Full members, also known as member bodies; each member has only one vote and a country can only have one member. 2) Correspondent members are observers who pay reduced membership fees but have no voting rights. 3) Subscriber members represent institutes from countries and pay reduced membership fees (“ISO”, 2008).
The General Assembly is a meeting of the Principal Officers of ISO and delegates nominated by the member bodies. The Principal Officers include the President who is a prominent figure in standardization or in business, the Vice President (policy), the Vice President (technical management), the Treasurer, and the Secretary-General (“ISO”, 2008). The Council performs governance functions of ISO in accordance with the policy laid down by the member bodies. It meets twice a year and membership is rotated to ensure that the interests of member bodies are fully represented.
There are also policy development committees to provide guidance for the development of standards covering different sectors. They are: Committee on Conformity Assessment, CASCO (conformity assessment); Committee on Consumer Policy of the International Organization for Standardization, COPOLCO (consumer policy), and DEVCO (developing country matters). The policy development committees are open to all member bodies and correspondent members. The Technical Management Board (TMB) reports to the Council and is responsible for the management of technical work.
Member bodies are also eligible for election to the TMB (“ISO”, 2008). . ISO code of ethics According to Cross, code of ethics is a statement of ethical priorities that determine the actions of member countries (2008) within the ISO and are summarised as follows: 1. ISO Stakeholders shall be Committed and dedicated towards meeting the rising challenges of the 21st Century by involving industry experts and considering their contribution, providing modern solutions or innovations, and establishing efficient processes globally.
2. Globally relevant standards shall be developed in a fair, responsive and efficient manner by applying the principles of due process, openness, integrity, considering the interest of all member parties, and facilitating stakeholders’ participation 3. The integrity of ISO shall be monitored and protected by all members and actions or resolutions shall be in the interest of ISO as a whole. 4.
Members and stakeholders shall be involved in promoting the implementation of International Standards and associated good conformity assessment practices by contributing to the development of standards and implementing the requirements associated with all conformity assessment standards. 5. Members and stakeholders shall consider the development element by helping members from developing countries improve their capacity and participation in the development of standards (“ISO”, 2008). ISO Strategic plan 2005-2010 The ISO Strategic Plan 2005-2010 was approved unanimously by ISO at its 27th meeting in Geneva on 15-16 Sept, 2004.
ISO’s course is guided by this plan which has been approved for a five-year period. It outlines the vision that the organization would have achieved in 2010. Seven objectives have been developed to meet the expectations of its members and stakeholders and they include, but are not limited to the following: 1. Developing a consistent and multi-sector collection of globally relevant international standards. This will be achieved by improving the procedures for evaluating market needs, optimizing the architecture of technical bodies, and review of global policies. 2.
Ensuring the involvement of Stakeholders to ensure that global interests are properly captured for the benefits of all countries and individuals, even at the lowest level. 3. Raising the awareness and capacity of developing countries by promoting and upgrading new membership, and allowing developing countries to identify their priority sectors 4. Encouraging partnerships for the efficient development of International Standards. Partnerships with policy development committees like COPOLCO, CASCO and DEVCO; IEC and other counterparts are particularly encouraged. 5.
Promoting the use of voluntary standards as an alternative or as a support to technical regulations by encouraging the participation of government and intergovernmental organizations in standards development. 6. Being the recognized provider of international standards and guides relating to conformity assessment. 7. Providing efficient procedures and tools for the development of a coherent and complete range of deliverables by simplifying the range of deliverables, seeking collaborative agreements with providers of Information Technology, and so on (“ISO”, 2008).
What are ISO 10014, 14025, 14040 and 14044? ISO 10014 provides guidelines and recommendations for realizing financial and economic benefits from the application of the ISO 9000 quality management principles. It is directed to top management of an organization, provides examples of achievable benefits, and identifies management methods and tools that are available to assist with the achievement of those benefits (“ISO”, 2008).
ISO 14025 establishes the principles and specifies the procedures for developing Type III environmental declaration programmes and Type III environmental declarations. It establishes principles for the use of environmental information. Type III environmental declarations as described in ISO 14025, are primarily intended for use in business-to-business communication, but their use in business-to-consumer communication under certain conditions is not precluded (“ISO”, 2008).
ISO 14040 describes the principles and framework for life cycle assessment (LCA) including: definition of the goal and scope of the LCA, the life cycle inventory analysis (LCI) phase, the life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) phase, the life cycle interpretation phase, reporting and critical review of the LCA, limitations of the LCA, the relationship between the LCA phases, and conditions for use of value choices and optional elements. It covers life cycle assessment (LCA) studies and life cycle inventory (LCI) studies.
The intended application of LCA or LCI results is considered during definition of the goal and scope, but the application itself is outside the scope of this International Standard (“ISO”, 2008). Who is responsible for ISO standards? ISO is a democratic institution that employs the contribution of every member country that is represented, through one vote. The member bodies are responsible for ISO standards because they are the only ones with voting rights.
Each country has only one vote (“ISO”, 2008). Concluding remarks- how will it impact the business community in the future? ISO is very important to the business community because it determine which products are marketable enough and sets guidelines for the characteristics or features that a product must have if it is to be considered standard. ISO makes the development, manufacturing and supply of products and services more efficient, safer and cleaner.
For business communities, it helps to facilitate trade between countries and make it fairer, share technological advances and good management practice, disseminate innovation, safeguard consumers, and users in general, of products and services. In the future, ISO standards are expected to make life simpler by providing solutions to common problems, as we are already experiencing (“ISO”, 2008).
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