What Is the International Organization for Standardization (ISO)?

What Is the International Organization for Standardization (ISO)?

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is an international nongovernmental organization made up of national standards bodies; it develops and publishes a wide range of proprietary, industrial, and commercial standards and is comprised of representatives from various national standards organizations.

The organization's abbreviated name—ISO—is not an acronym; it derives from the ancient Greek word ísos, meaning equal or equivalent. Because the organization would have different acronyms in different languages, the founders of the organization decided to call it by the short form ISO.

Key Takeaways

  • The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is an international nongovernmental organization made up of national standards bodies that develops and publishes a wide range of proprietary, industrial, and commercial standards.
  • The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) was founded in 1947 and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • In addition to producing standards, ISO also publishes technical reports, technical specifications, publicly available specifications, technical corrigenda, and guides.
  • The ISO plays an important role in facilitating world trade by providing common standards among different countries.
  • ISO standards cover all fields, from healthcare to technology to manufacturing to security to the environment.

Understanding the International Organization for Standardization (ISO)

The International Organization for Standardization was founded in 1947 and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. The organization began in the 1920s as the International Federation of the National Standardizing Associations (ISA). After being suspended during World War II, the United Nations Standards Coordinating Committee (UNSCC) proposed a new global standards body, and the International Organization for Standardization was formed.

The ISO works in 167 countries. Members of the organization are the foremost standards organizations in their countries; there is only one member per country. While individuals and companies cannot become members of ISO, there are various ways that industry experts can collaborate with the ISO.

Members of ISO meet annually at a General Assembly to discuss the strategic objectives of the organization. In addition, there is a 20-person council with rotating membership that provides guidance and governance for the organization.

Activities of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO)


ISO develops and publishes standards for a vast range of products, materials, and processes. Currently, the organization has over 24,362 standards, which are included in the ISO Standards catalog, which is broken down into various segments, such as healthcare technology, railway engineering, jewelry, clothing, metallurgy, weapons, paint, civil engineering, agriculture, and aircraft. In addition to producing standards, ISO also publishes technical reports, technical specifications, publicly available specifications, technical corrigenda, and guides.

The ISO plays an important role in facilitating world trade by providing common standards among different countries. These standards are intended to ensure that products and services are safe, reliable, and of good quality.

For the end-user and consumer, these standards ensure that certified products conform to the minimum standards set internationally.

In some cases, "ISO" is used to describe the product that conforms to an ISO standard as a result of the ubiquity of these standards. For example, the speed of film, or the sensitivity of a photographic film to light, is referred to by its ISO number (ISO 6, ISO 2240, and ISO 5800).

Who Approves ISO International Standards?

The ISO standards are internationally agreed upon by experts in the related fields. These are people who know what their industries need, individuals such as manufacturers, sellers, buyers, customers, trade associations, users, or regulators.

What Are the 2 Most Popular ISO Standards?

The two most popular ISO standards are ISO 9001 and 14001. 9001 provides criteria for quality management systems, while 14001 provides criteria for environmental management systems.

What Is an Example of an ISO Standard?

Some examples of ISO standards include the calibration of thermometers, food safety regulations, and the manufacturing of wine glasses. ISO standards also cover shoe sizes, musical pitches, security management, and environmental management.

What Is ISO 9000?

ISO 9000 is a standard that focuses on quality management and quality assurance. The standard is used by companies to develop and maintain their quality systems. The goal of ISO 9000 is to apply to companies in all industries. Areas of focus include relationship management, customer focus, and leadership.

Article Sources
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  1. ISO. "About Us."

  2. ISO. "Friendship Among Equals," Pages 15-21.

  3. ISO. "Members."

  4. ISO. "About Us, Structure and Governance."

  5. ISO. "Standards Catalogue, ICS."

  6. ISO. "ISO 6 Camera Film Speed."

  7. ISO. "Standards."

  8. ISO. "The ISO Survey of Management System Standard Certifications - 2020 - Explanatory Note."

  9. ISO. "ISO 9000 Family, Quality Management."

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