Key markers in ISO's history

ISO's new home, a brand new environmentally friendly and energy efficient office ISO is the world largest standards developing organization. Between 1947 and the present day, ISO has published more than 18 000 International Standards, ranging from standards for activities such as agriculture and construction, through mechanical engineering, to medical devices, to the newest information technology developments.

Given the multi-sector scope of the organization, it would be hard to present a historical perspective summarizing the challenges, the passion, the outstanding achievements or, sometimes, the missed opportunities, in the large variety of sectors covered by ISO’s technical work.

We have therefore chosen to highlight the key markers in the history of the organization from a general perspective. The ISO Story


ISO is the world largest standards developing organization. Between 1947 and the present day, ISO has published more than 16 500 International Standards, ranging from standards for activities such as agriculture and construction, through mechanical engineering, to medical devices, to the newest information technology developments.

Given the multi-sector scope of the organization, it would be hard to present an historical perspective summarizing the challenges, the passion, the outstanding achievements or, sometimes, the missed opportunities, in the large variety of sectors covered by ISO’s technical work.

We have therefore chosen to highlight the key markers in the history of the organization from a general perspective.


ISO was born from the union of two organizations - the ISA (International Federation of the National Standardizing Associations),. established in New York in 1926, and the UNSCC (United Nations Standards Coordinating Committee), established in 1944.

In October 1946, delegates from 25 countries, meeting at the Institute of Civil Engineers in London, decided to create a new international organization, of which the object would be "to facilitate the international coordination and unification of industrial standards". The new organization, ISO, officially began operations on 23 February 1947.

■The Founding of ISO, Willy Kuert, Swiss delegate to the London conference in 1946 (from: Friendship among equals) ■The Formation of ISO, JoAnne Yates (MIT Sloan School) and Craig Murphy (Wellesley College) The early years

In April 1947, a meeting in Paris produced a recommended list of 67 ISO technical committees, about two-thirds of which were based on previous ISA committees. By the early 1950s, ISO technical committees were starting to produce what were known at the time as “Recommendations”.

The basic idea of postwar international standardization was to derive International Standards from those already developed nationally, and then to re-implement them nationally. ISO’s Recommendations were therefore only intended to influence existing national standards.

19641979 (from: Friendship among equals) The first ISO General Assembly was organized in Paris in 1949. at that time. quality. As reported by Raymond Frontard. then in Russian …A quiver of curiosity run through the enormous assembly. It was inaugurated at a public meeting held in the grand amphitheatre at the Sorbonne University.■The early years. Raymond Frontard. The earth was an archipelago of distinct worlds. "Young people today find it difficult to imagine how far we were. Jaime Torres-Bodet. “a full house. safety and environmental specifications.” ■Standards-related activities. to take advantage of International Standards and to participate in their development. listened to the speeches.simultaneous interpretation had yet to be invented). Vincent Auriol. former Director-General of AFNOR. They offer indeed practical solutions to a variety of issues related to international trade and technology transfer because they represent a reservoir of technological know-how and of product. The International Standards developed by ISO are of high value to developing countries. including the President of the French Republic. In English first. Former Director-General of AFNOR (from: Friendship among equals) Developing countries In the course of the 1950s and 1960s. and the Director General of UNESCO. Roger Maréchal. from the global view that now seems so familiar. Assistant Secretary-General of ISO. However. developing countries had to face substantial additional problems in comparison with industrialized nations. performance. Then came the translations (consecutive of course . ranging from the lack of established industrial infrastructures and related technical components . an increasing number of new ISO member bodies came from the developing world.

along with the undertaking of programmes providing technical assistance and capacity building and a variety of initiatives to facilitate developing countries' participation in international standardization. In 1967. By the mid-sixties a demand. Other initiatives followed. . the underlying causes of the acceleration of the pace of international standardization included “an explosive growth in international trade” caused by a “revolution in transportation methods”. the attention of the organization to the needs of developing countries has substantially evolved. Since the 1960s. Developing countries ISO International Standards According to ISO’s first-ever Annual Review in 1972. In parallel.(including national standards. The sources of this demand included multinational companies. The first landmark in ISO’s attempts to respond to the needs of these members was the establishment in 1961 of the DEVCO Committee on developing country matters (initiated on the basis of a memorandum to ISO Council from Mr. standards institutions in developing countries and government regulatory authorities. metrology and testing institutions and facilities). for International Standards had developed. the membership and role of developing countries within ISO has been continuously increasing. allowing very small economies to maintain a link with ISO for a minimum fee. so that developing countries could play a role in ISO’s work without incurring the cost of full membership. A further category of subscriber member was eventually added in 1992. not only a desire.. a developing countries conference was held in Moscow and in1968 a new category of correspondent member was established. to the severe limitation of financial and technical resources. F. 418 kB) ■ISO Online's Resources for . Hadass of Israel). ■ISO Action Plan for developing countries (PDF..

■The expansion of ISO.wto.What had laid the foundation for the growth of the output of ISO during the seventies was the turn in emphasis from national to International Standards which took place in the late 1960s. Secretary-General Emeritus of ISO (from: Friendship among equals The establishment of the GATT Standards Code From 1948 to 1994. the Uruguay Round of 1986-94. The eighth. ■http://www. The Agreement also sets out a code of good practice for both governments and non-governmental or industry bodies to It led to the WTO (World Trade Organization) and a new set of agreements. and to improve the system. Then. the GATT trade rounds concentrated on reducing tariffs. The Tokyo Round during the 70s was the first major attempt to tackle trade barriers that do not take the form of tariffs. the Kennedy Round in the mid-60s brought about a GATT Anti-Dumping Agreement and a section on development. adopt and apply voluntary standards. In the early years. standards.htm The Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (the so-called GATT Standards Code) introduced in 1979 aims at ensuring that regulations. Olle Sturen. the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) provided the rules for much of world trade and presided over periods that saw some of the highest growth rates in international commerce. was the last and most extensive of all. testing and certification procedures do not create unnecessary obstacles to trade. ISO grasped immediately the importance of the GATT Standards Code and actively promoted the value of ISO’s International Standards to be used . This change of emphasis was underlined by the decision in 1971 to begin publishing the results of ISO’s technical work as International Standards rather then Recommendations.

The Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (now WTO TBT) was eventually amended in the Uruguay Round and turned into a multilateral commitment accepted by all WTO members. Since 1979. NASA developed its quality system requirements for suppliers and NATO accepted the AQAP (allied quality assurance procedures) specifications for the procurement of equipment. ISO has taken the commitment and implemented all the necessary measures to ensure that ISO’s International Standards are fully compliant with the requirements set by the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade of the WTO. However. during the 1980s. or process. quality standards for military procurement were introduced at the end of the 1950s. ISO entered into new areas of work. whenever needed. destined to have enormous impact on organizational practices and trade. In an effort to curb such causalities. a high percentage of bullets and bombs went off in the factories themselves in the course of manufacturing. . as a suitable basis for technical The history of industrialization has seen many standards dealing with quality issues.worldwide as instruments facilitating the elimination of unnecessary barriers to trade. A famous example concerns the military field: during the two world wars. ■http://www. In the USA. During the 1960s. material.html Quality management standards The vast majority of ISO’s International Standards were highly specific to a particular product.standardsinfo. and. the United Kingdom’s ministry of defense appointed inspectors in the factories to supervise the production process.

In December 1979. Generic Guidelines for quality systems.. which provided the requirements for quality management systems operated by organizations with varying scopes of activity. .business as usual.or a real challenge? by David Hoyle and John Thompson (PDF.understand the basics ■ISO 9000:2000 . to those uniquely carrying out service and maintenance. from those including an R&D function. 804 kB) Environmental management and other management standards ISO's portfolio of generic management systems standards was extended beyond quality during the 1990s.15. Quality management and quality assurance.In the 1970s. the USA issued ANSI/ASQC Z-1. it was feared that a variety of different national standards would be a barrier to international trade. providing guidance on quality management systems. The Canadian CSA Z 299 series of standards were issued in the mid-1970s and the British standard BS 5750 was issued in 1979.. It was followed in 1987 by ISO 9001. ■Management standards . These standards were completed by ISO 9004. Whilst the increase in international trade stimulated the development of internationally-recognized quality management standards.. The ISO technical committee (TC) 176. many major organizations (private and governmental) published their own quality management standards. which standardized quality management terminology. ISO 9002 and ISO 9003. was therefore established in 1979. The first standard issued by ISO/TC 176 was ISO 8402 (in 1986). which introduced the idea that confidence in a product could be gained from an approved quality management system and quality manuals.with the ISO 9000 family of standards set to become the most widely known standards ever. This accomplishment marked the beginning of a long journey ..

. leading to a coordinated world response to common environmental challenges. Environmental management. This request from WBCSD came at a time when work was already in progress within the ISO/IEC Presidents' Advisory Board on Technical Trends and other instances of the two organizations. Environmental concerns were not new in ISO. in which ISO and its partner IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) became directly involved. a comprehensive policy guidance document. and a number of agreements including the Framework Convention on Climate Change which in turn led to the Kyoto Protocol. was a major conference held in Rio de Janeiro from 3-14 June 1992. the focus on environmental standards intensified in the preparatory period leading up to the 1992 Earth Summit. with 17 000 people at the parallel NGO Forum who had socalled "consultative status". As a result. attended by 110 heads of State and a total of 172 governments. a set of principles for achieving sustainable development. in August 1991. along with Agenda 21. Some 2 400 representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) attended. UNCED wanted to ensure that business was fully engaged in the process. UNCED issued the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. This WBCSD approached the two international standards organizations to see what they were doing in the area of environmental management and to encourage them to become more active. also known as the Earth Summit. was the result of a sequence of activities. The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) was established as a result of these efforts. ISO technical committees developing standards for air and water quality were established in 1971. For example. ISO and IEC formally established the Strategic Advisory Group on the Environment (SAGE) to study the situation and make recommendations. However. The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). the establishment of the ISO technical committee ISO/TC 207.In particular.

a recommendation to create a new ISO technical committee to develop standards in the area of environmental management. ■Food safety ■Information security ■Supply chain security ■Medical devices ■Local government ■Education The ISO timeline . The tremendous impact of ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 on organizational practices and on trade has stimulated the development of other ISO standards and deliverables that adapt the generic management system to specific sectors or aspects.The SAGE process had two major end products: 1. Environmental October 1992. The recommendations to UNCED became a key element of the major documents that came out of that conference. Agenda 21. and the Rio Declaration. PDF.a series of ISO/IEC recommendations on environmental management. and 2. which were submitted to the UNCED preparatory conference in January 1992. Its first standard. The recommendation to ISO and IEC led to the creation in 1993 of ISO/TC 207. which held its inaugural plenary session in Toronto in June of 1993. Environmental management systems -. 132 kB). ISO 14001.Specification with guidance for use was published in 1996 (ISO/TC 207 News article.

About ISO .

. How ISO develops standards How ISO decides to develop a standard ISO launches the development of new standards in response to sectors and stakeholders that express a clearly established need for them. proposals may also be made by ISO members to set up new technical committees to cover new fields of activity. Therefore. other members have their roots uniquely in the private sector. many of its member institutes are part of the governmental structure of their countries. ISO enables a consensus to be reached on solutions that meet both the requirements of business and the broader needs of society. that coordinates the system. having been set up by national partnerships of industry associations.ISO (International Organization for Standardization) is the world's largest developer and publisher of International Standards. ISO is a non-governmental organization that forms a bridge between the public and private sectors. ISO is a network of the national standards institutes of 163 countries. New work items may also be proposed by organizations in liaison (see below) with such committees. The latter then proposes the new work item to the relevant ISO technical committee developing standards in that area. or are mandated by their government. On the other hand. one member per country. When work items do not relate to existing committees. with a Central Secretariat in Geneva. On the one hand. An industry sector or other stakeholder group typically communicates its requirement for a standard to one of ISO's national members. Switzerland.

consumers (COPOLCO) and conformity assessment (CASCO). nongovernmental organizations and academic circles. or in the case of CASCO. These may recommend the development of new standards for their stakeholder groups. observer (O) or non-members of the committee. (subcommittees or project committees) comprising experts from the industrial. technical and business sectors which have asked for the standards. . the body providing the administrative support to the work of the committee) is allocated by the Technical Management Board (which itself reports to the ISO Council). a proposed work item must receive the majority support of the participating members of the ISO technical committee which. The secretariat (i. In addition to the technical committees that address standardization in a specific field. consumer associations. usually to the ISO member body which made the proposal. verifies the "global relevance" of the proposed item – this means that it indeed responds to an international need and will eventually be suitable for implementation on as broad a basis as possible worldwide. develop new standards itsel Who develops ISO standards ISO standards are developed by technical committees. The secretariat is responsible for nominating an individual to act as chair of the technical committee. amongst other criteria. These experts may be joined by representatives of government agencies. ISO also has policy development committees addressing the standardization needs of developing countries (DEVCO). The chair is formally appointed by the Technical Management Board. and which subsequently put them to use. which are then submitted to the approval process described above.e. testing laboratories. Proposals to establish new technical committees are submitted to all ISO national member bodies. who may opt to be participating (P).To be accepted for development.

If the voting is in favour. the national member body is expected to take account of the views of all parties interested in the standard under development. the document. In some cases. propose new work items or even propose documents for “fast tracking” . (There is no FDIS stage in the case of documents processed through the fast track procedure of the joint technical committee ISO/IEC JTC 1. with eventual modifications. National delegations are usually based on and supported by national mirror committees to which the delegations report. They may comment on successive drafts. If that vote is positive. chosen by the ISO national member body for the country concerned. The “organizations in liaison” also take part in this work. advanced work within these organizations means that substantial technical development and debate has already occurred. the resulting document is circulated as a Draft International Standard (DIS) to all ISO's member bodies for voting and comment. a document may be submitted for "fast-track" processing.) . National delegations are required to represent not just the views of the organizations in which their participating experts work. This enables them to present a consolidated. Information technology.Experts participate as national delegations. According to ISO rules. or to be informed about the work. International and regional organizations from both business and the public sector may apply for liaison status to participate in developing a standard. but those of other stakeholders too. leading to some international recognition and in this case. How ISO standards are developed The national delegations of experts of a committee meet to discuss. Such “organizations in liaisons” are accepted through voting by the relevant ISO committee. is circulated to the ISO members as a Final Draft International Standard (FDIS). national consensus position to the technical committee. the document is then published as an International Standard. debate and argue until they reach consensus on a draft agreement. In both cases. but they have no voting rights.

an average of seven ISO technical meetings takes place around the world. The public can purchase International Standards through the ISO Web Store or through ISO's national members. the experts continue the standards' development work by correspondence. is an essential procedural principle. which requires the resolution of substantial objections. sufficient time is required before the approval stage for the discussion. which speeds up the development of standards and cuts travel costs. "Consensus" is officially defined (in ISO/IEC Guide 2) as "general agreement. Although it is necessary for the technical work to progress speedily. characterized by the absence of sustained opposition to substantial issues by any important part of the concerned interests and by a process that involves seeking to take into account the views of all parties concerned and to reconcile . Public access Most ISO members have some form of public review procedures for making proposed work items and draft standards known and available to interested parties. Consensus Because ISO standards are voluntary agreements. The ISO members then take account of any feedback they receive in formulating their position on the proposed work item or on the draft standard. negotiation and resolution of significant technical disagreements. Draft standards are also available for sale to interested members of the public who can provide input through the ISO member in their country. their work is carried out by electronic means.Every working day of the year. In between meetings. Increasingly. they need to be based on a solid consensus of international expert opinion. Consensus.

it must be approved by at least two-thirds of the ISO national members that participated in its development and not be disapproved by more than a quarter of all ISO members who vote on it. The appeals process relating to ISO's standardization work in general and to JTC 1's work in particular is described respectively in the ISO/IEC Directives and in the ISO/IEC JTC 1 Directives. Voting For a document to be accepted as an ISO International Standard.any conflicting arguments". or may be implemented through incorporation in national standards of different countries. "Consensus need not imply unanimity". Appeals may relate to procedural. The definition notes. Detailed stages of the development of International Standards An International Standard is the result of an agreement between the member bodies of ISO. It may be used as such. International Standards are developed by ISO technical committees (TC) and subcommittees (SC) by a six-step process . to the Technical Management Board on a decision of technical committee and to the ISO Council on a decision of the Technical Management Board. Appeals ISO national member bodies have the right of appeal to a parent technical committee on the decision of subcommittee. technical or administrative matters.

The following is a summary of each of the six stages: For greater detail on how an International Standard is developed. a document is submitted directly for approval as a draft International Standard (DIS) to the ISO member bodies (stage 4) or. for example a standard developed by another organization. without passing through the previous stages. as a final draft International Standard (FDIS. see the ISO/IEC Joint Technical Committee 1 Directives. . if the document has been developed by an international standardizing body recognized by the ISO Council. Procedures for the technical work.■Stage 1: Proposal stage ■Stage 2: Preparatory stage ■Stage 3: Committee stage ■Stage 4: Enquiry stage ■Stage 5: Approval stage ■Stage 6: Publication stage See the stage code table for a visual representation of the development stages. If a document with a certain degree of maturity is available at the start of a standardization project. Part 1. In the so-called "fast-track procedure". refer to the publication ISO/IEC Directives. it is possible to omit certain stages. stage 5). Stage 1: Proposal stage The first step in the development of an International Standard is to confirm that a particular International Standard is needed. For work in the information technology area. A new work item proposal (NP) is submitted for vote by the members of the relevant TC or SC to determine the inclusion of the work item in the programme of work.

if required. the chairman (convener) of which is the project leader. it is registered by the ISO Central Secretariat.The proposal is accepted if a majority of the P-members of the TC/SC votes in favour and if at least five P-members declare their commitment to participate actively in the project. voting. the text is finalized for submission as a draft International Standard (DIS). Successive working drafts may be considered until the working group is satisfied that it has developed the best technical solution to the problem being addressed. Stage 2: Preparatory stage Usually. At this stage a project leader responsible for the work item is normally appointed. a working group of experts. the draft is forwarded to the working group's parent committee for the consensus-building phase. Stage 3: Committee stage As soon as a first committee draft is available. Once consensus has been attained. At this stage. It is distributed for comment and. by the P-members of the TC/SC. Successive committee drafts may be considered until consensus is reached on the technical content. is set up by the TC/SC for the preparation of a working draft. Stage 4: Enquiry stage .

If these approval criteria are not met. Stage 5: Approval stage The final draft International Standard (FDIS) is circulated to all ISO member bodies by the ISO Central Secretariat for a final Yes/No vote within a period of two months. If technical comments are received during this period. are introduced into the final text.The draft International Standard (DIS) is circulated to all ISO member bodies by the ISO Central Secretariat for voting and comment within a period of five months. only minor editorial changes. withdrawal) . but registered for consideration during a future revision of the International Standard. Review of International Standards (confirmation. It is approved for submission as a final draft International Standard (FDIS) if a two-thirds majority of the P-members of the TC/SC are in favour and not more than one-quarter of the total number of votes cast are negative. If the approval criteria are not met. if and where necessary. revision. The text is approved as an International Standard if a two-thirds majority of the P-members of the TC/SC is in favour and not more than one-quarter of the total number of votes cast are negative. the standard is referred back to the originating TC/SC for reconsideration in light of the technical reasons submitted in support of the negative votes received. Stage 6: Publication stage Once a final draft International Standard has been approved. they are no longer considered at this stage. the text is returned to the originating TC/SC for further study and a revised document will again be circulated for voting and comment as a draft International Standard. The final text is sent to the ISO Central Secretariat which publishes the International Standard.

A description of each deliverable can be obtained either by clicking directly on the diagram. A majority of the P-members of the TC/SC decides whether an International Standard should be confirmed. ISO can also offer other forms of normative agreements for situations where speedy publication is important. or on the links below. ISO deliverables In addition to International Standards. has developed a schematic representation of the different types of deliverable available.All International Standards are reviewed at the least three years after publication and every five years after the first review by all the ISO member bodies. ■ISO Standard ■ISO/PAS Publicly Available Specification ■ISO/TS Technical Specification ■ISO/TR Technical Report ■IWA International Workshop Agreement ■ISO Guide Initiatives Kids' ISO 14000 Programme . revised or withdrawn.

By 2009. demonstrating measurable increases in environmental awareness.Using the ISO STD template: practical tips 5.Procedures for ISO secretaries 2. ISO/CS training courses The following ISO/CS training courses are presented in this brochure. The programme. 1.Enhanced participation in international standardization 3. using the ISO STD template 4. developed by ArTech -a NGO . Part 2. ISO encourages its worldwide dissemination via supporting communication initiatives. Created and operated by the Japanese non-profit.000 children and young people aged 10 to 18 have completed the programme. which is implemented by public and private sector organizations in 155 countries. more than 210. it employs a simplified version of the Plan-Do-Check-Act methodology used in ISO's highly successful ISO 14001 environmental management system standard. In addition to lending the name of ISO 14000 to the programme.The Kids' ISO 14000 Programme aims to harness the energy of children and young people around the world to tackle environmental challenges.Drafting standards in accordance with the ISO/IEC Directives. and UNESCO as UN-DESD to many other countries in the world.was launched in Japan in 2000 with 500 participants.ISO Global Directory and the NMC extension . ISO. It has been implemented in Japan and spreaded through the United Nations University (UNU). non-governmental organization ArTech. UNEP.

according to the specific requirements of the participants.Services offered by the ISO Central Secretariat 2010 gives more information on each training course and how to participate.6.Marketing and promotion of ISO International Standards 10.ISO expert in international standardization management (eLearning course) 9. This facilitates potential customization . . All courses are based upon modular content.including omission or expansion of topics .Good standardization practice The brochure Training in standards development .Introduction to ISO eServices 7.eServices for ISO secretaries 8.

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