What is ISO?

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ISO Explained

Chances are you’ve come across the term ISO on more occasions than one, but yet aren’t sure what it stands for actually. Don’t worry, and you’re not the only one. ISO is an important organization for the business market across the globe, so it’s useful to learn a thing or two about it. In this post, you’re going to learn what ISO is, its purpose, and how they actually come up with different standards.

What is ISO?

International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is an independent organization that sets standards to regulate the manufacturing process and performance in various industries. The organization is comprised of 162 national standards bodies. Headquarters of ISO are in Geneva, but the organization has its office in all member countries too. ISO was founded on February 23, 1947, to promote worldwide proprietary, industrial, and commercial standards.

Why ISO matters

The importance of ISO is immense for the global market. The organization has issued over 22,380 international standards in various industries such as food safety, technology, healthcare, agriculture, and others. The main purpose of ISO is to ensure safety to consumers and make sure businesses and organizations across the world respect certain rules and regulations to make the world a safer place.

Having ISO certificate indicates that a manufacturing process, management system, documentation procedure, product or service meets all the necessary requirements for quality assurance and standardization. The certificate is a sign that specific criteria are met to ensure safety and efficacy which can benefit consumers. ISO standards are published to provide safety and consistency. Each certification has different standards that need to be achieved.

How ISO create standards

In order to learn how the organization sets standards, we need to address different types of memberships. They include member bodies or full members, correspondent members, and subscriber members. Full members directly participate in the development of new standards through meetings and voting. Correspondent members attend meetings as observers, while subscriber members only stay up to date with work of ISO but they don’t participate in discussions or anything.

Development of standards is a complicated process that can last up to three years. The organization gathers experts from a specific area. Those experts carry out thorough research and come up with ideas that could improve production, performance, or safety and meeting new demands on the market. Their findings are discussed at ISO meetings. In order to become a standard, every member has to accept and vote for the draft provided by experts. If not, then the whole process gets more work done.

The most important or popular ISO standards

As seen above, ISO published more than 20 thousands of standards for different industries. Some of those standards are more important or more popular than others. Below, you can see a list of some examples:

  • ISO 9001 – it was first published in 1987 and has been updated every seven years. This is the only standard from ISO 9000 family that requires certification. ISO 9001 details how to put a quality management system in place for a greater quality of products and services
  • ISO 4001 – belongs to the family of standards that are related to the environment. Similarly to ISO 9001, ISO 4001 is the only standard from this family that includes certification. The standard establishes requirements for an environmental management system, and it’s based on the continuous improvement model PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act)


  • ISO 22000 – focused on developing and implementing a food safety management system. For example, ISO 22001 is involved with foods and beverages while ISO 22002 focuses on manufacturing of food
  • ISO 26000 – this standard was released in 2010, and it provides guidelines on how to make sure the business operates in a way that is socially responsible


  • ISO 31000 – released in 2009 and it outlines a program to manage and decrease the risk in the company. This standard eliminates the need for having other risk-based standards from other companies
  • ISO 27000 – a family of standards concerned with information technology
  • ISO 50001 – the energy standards to improve the use and efficiency of energy and reduce the organization’s energy footprint through decreased greenhouse emissions

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This article is intended to provide general information only. It is not offered, nor should it be relied upon, as legal advice. You should consult a legal representative before taking any action or making any decision with potential legal ramifications.