The quest to define international standards is closely linked to the growth in international trade that occurred in the 20th and 21st centuries. When products are made according to different standards there is a risk that a product that meets the standard in one country won’t meet the standard in another. This raises the risk of buying goods from suppliers around the world, hence hindering trade.
FROM NATIONAL TO INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS. The organization that would eventually become known as ISO started out in 1926 as the International Federation of the National Standardizing Associations (ISA). Its goal was to create standards in the field of mechanical engineering. It was dissolved during the Second World War. In 1946, delegates from 25 countries met in London to create a new international standards organization. In 1947 the new organization, ISO, began operations. The name ISO is derived from the Greek word “isos,” meaning equal.
Today, ISO has members from 165 countries and over 3,000 technical bodies responsible for developing standards. Its Central Secretariat is based in Geneva, Switzerland. An independent, non-governmental membership organization, it is the world’s largest developer of voluntary standards. Internationally agreed ISO standards on features such as terminology, compatibility and interoperability, not to mention health, safety and the environment, help companies to buy and sell goods internationally.
FROM TECHNICAL TO PROCESS STANDARDS. For the first 40 years of its existence, ISO focused on developing technical standards for products and technologies. The big turning point came in the 1980s, when ISO began developing process standards, the first of which became known as the ISO 9000 Quality Management system standards.
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