There are so many International Standards in use across the globe. The International Organization of Standardization (ISO) alone has many thousands, with other global standard organisations such as API, ISA, IEC and AWS, contributing even more to the total number. The most popular global standards on the market currently are; ISO 9001 (Quality), ISO 14001 (Environment), OHSAS 18001 (Health and Safety), ISO 27001 (Information Security), ISO 22000 (Food Safety), ISO 22301 (Business Continuity), ISO 50001 (Energy Management) and ISO 31000 (Risk Management). The goal of standardisation is to control risk, ease logistical complexities, prevent consumer deception, improve productivity and provide confidence in business continuity.
‘Standards’, are defined by ISO as the following:
‘…documented agreements containing technical specifications or other precise criteria to be used consistently as rules, guidelines or definitions, to ensure that materials, products, processes and services are fit for their purpose’
From this definition, it becomes clear that standards are not only used for standardisation, but also act as ‘guidelines’ for organisations, for example:
- Product standards are specifications and criteria for the characteristics of products
- Process standards are criteria for the way the products are made
Setting standards in stone internationally has proven to be very difficult, due to the variety of circumstances that exist around the world. This can be especially true in industries where differences in environmental conditions significantly affect the achievability of certain set standards. In response to this diversity, international environmental and social standards are often put in place as normative standards, i.e. generic guidelines to be used by organisations as a framework. It must be noted that environmental and social standards in certain industries usually do not have the purpose of standardisation per se, but are developed to improve environmental and social sustainability.
Certification is a procedure by which a third party gives written assurance that a product, process or service conforms to the relevant standards. Certification can be seen as a form of communication along the supply chain. The certificate demonstrates to the buyer that the supplier complies with certain standards, which is generally more convincing than if the supplier itself provided the assurance.