Post 21 -by Gautam Shah


Beginning of ISO : In 1946, delegates from 25 countries met in London and decided to create an International Standards Organization, for coordinating and unifying industrial standards. The new organization, ISO, officially began operations on 23 February 1947, in Geneva, Switzerland. ISO is not an abbreviation (of International Standards Organization), but a word, derived from the Greek isos, meaning equal. Whatever is the language, the accepted short form of the organization’s name is ISO.

First ISO meeting: In London, in 1946, 65 delegates from 25 countries met to discuss the future of International Standardization. In 1947, ISO officially came into existence with 67 committees of experts focussed on specific subjects. 

ISO was born after several efforts for developing a reasonable policy for International trade and transit. The first need, was to develop a worldwide policy for weights and measures. An international treaty (Metre Convention or Convention du Mètre, May 1875, France) was signed by 17 countries, to create a ‘permanent mechanism to recommend and adopt further refinements in the metric system’. The treaty occurred at the time of heightened Industrial activity during the Industrial Revolution period across Europe and USA. After this, a General Conference on weights and measures or Confèence gènvrale des poids et mesures CGPM was organized in 1889. Eight such CGPM, at rough intervals of four years, were held till 1933, followed by an inactive period due to world war II.

Soon after WW-II, hectic reconstruction activities began everywhere. Major impediments to this effort were the differing National Standards. To allow free flow of raw materials, equipments and technology a platform of common Standards and Specifications was required. In 1946, delegates from 25 countries met in London to create a new organization, to facilitate the international coordination and unification of industrial standards. The new organization, Organisation internationale de normalisation, ISO, officially began operations on 23 February 1947, in Geneva, Switzerland.

ISO first Head Quarter

ISO and International Cooperation : ISO is a voluntary, democratic and non governmental organization for international cooperation. It is now a Network of National Standards’ Institutes of 162 countries of the world. It is formed on the basis of one member per country. Some of the participants, delegated by their governments, are the most representative body for Standardization effort in their country. ISO is a non governmental organization and so cannot regulate or legislate. It has no legal authority to enforce its standards. It evolves standards by consensus. Every participating member, irrespective of strength of its political prestige or size of its economy, can influence the formation of standards. Some Standards, through bilateral and multi lateral agreements, have become an inevitable International Trading Requirement and important criteria for aid, loans, grants, etc.

ISO Head Quarter at La Voie Creuse, Geneva

ISO Work : ISO began its work with specifications for writing and coordinating measures. Subsequently ISO began to evolve International Standards for Products, Services, Processes, etc. These were derived as a consensus based on many national standards. The standards are upgraded and redefined every five years, and sometimes more frequently. Yet, to serve the user better, many individuals and organizations outperform the standards.

ISO standards are developed by Technical Groups or Committees (+3000) that comprise experts (+50000), from industrial, technical and business sectors that follow these standards. In addition, these committees also include representatives of government agencies, testing laboratories, consumer associations, non-governmental organizations and academic circles. The ISO has published more than 15000 International Standards.


Formation of Standards at ISO : When a Government, Industry or Business identifies a need for standard, the requirements are conveyed through one of the ISO’s National members, one of the three General Policy Development Committees. (Such as: CASCO -for conformity assessment, COPOLCO -for consumer policy, or DEVCO -for developing country matters). The new proposal, if accepted, is assigned to a technical committee of experts and others with relevant knowledge, such as representatives of government agencies, consumer organizations, academia and testing laboratories. The technical committees form a Draft Agreement, which is circulated as a Draft International Standard (DIS) to all ISO’s members, for comments and voting. The feedback generates Final Draft International Standard (FDIS), which on approval is published as the International Standard (IS).


The process of approval is a time-consuming action so ISO allows intermediate stage publications before a full consensus: 1 Publicly Available Specification (PAS), 2 Technical Specifications (TS), 3 Technical Report (TR), 4 International Workshop Agreement (IWA).

Other Activities of ISO : ISO also helps for an International Consensus on Terminology to make the transfer of technology, declarations, negotiations and communications. ISO formulates requirements for Conformity Assessments to assess materials, products, systems and services for the Level of Compliance to relevant standards before these can be put on markets. ISO offers agreements on Standard Test Procedures for evaluation of products. ISO does not carry out the conformity assessment, but has developed systems and norms as to how Conformity Assessing Organizations operate.

ISO Consumer workshop > ISO committee on Consumer policy (ISO/COPOLCO) workshop in Malta

ISO, Governments and Consumers : ISO has emerged as coordinating and consensus making organization among divergent national or regional standards to ease out the technical barriers to international trade. Similarly ISO helps Governments in health, safety and environment, related issues. ISO standards affect the consumers for air, water, food, and soil quality, emissions of gases and radiation through assurance of quality, safety, reliability, wide choice, and worldwide compatibility of technologies.



Published by

Gautam Shah

Former adjunct faculty, Faculty of Design CEPT University, Ahmedabad and Consultant Designer


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