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Standards and their benefits

Standards are agreed specifications for products, processes, services, and performance. They are generally voluntary but become mandatory when cited in Acts, regulations or other legislative instruments, with several hundred New Zealand standards cited.

Standards provide solutions to a wide range of issues experienced by government, industry and the public, are often used by businesses to demonstrate compliance with legislation and can also help create a range of commercial benefits.

Key examples include:

  • keeping people safe and healthy, and helping prevent accidents and injuries
  • minimising unnecessary duplication, confusion and inconsistencies in business systems and processes
  • encouraging consistency of best practice within sectors, and supporting quality regulation, assurance and compliance
  • increasing productivity and boosting economic growth and trade opportunities by supporting access for New Zealand businesses to both domestic and international markets.

Standards help our customers to save time and money, foster innovation, meet regulatory requirements, achieve business efficiency and protect consumers.

Case for change


A well-functioning standards system is critical to support a well-functioning economy, effective regulatory systems and achieving the Government’s economic and social objectives and to ensure the health, safety, security and well-being of New Zealanders.

Standards have high intrinsic value for New Zealand, helping assure the quality and safety of New Zealand products and services used both in New Zealand and overseas. However, there currently appears to be limited public knowledge or appreciation of the importance of standards for New Zealanders and the key role that Standards New Zealand, as Aotearoa New Zealand’s internationally recognised national standards body, plays in their development, management, access and promotion.

Opportunities for “doing more” in this regard lie in demonstrating how standards can add value and make a real difference to people’s lives, with a focus on the areas of climate change and the digital economy in particular. The New Zealand Government, the public and industry currently face significant challenges and uncertainty in these areas – a situation which seems likely to continue into the foreseeable future. By leveraging its role as Aotearoa New Zealand’s national standards body, Standards New Zealand has the opportunity to create more certainty and confidence for all New Zealanders through its climate change and digital economy-related products and services.

For example, climate change presents an opportunity for Standards New Zealand to demonstrate how it can help government and industry develop and adopt renewable energies, decarbonise industries, minimise waste and improve climate resilience. In the area of digital economy, Standards New Zealand work can directly support efforts by government and industry to adopt these new technologies in a safe and secure manner while encouraging innovation and remaining competitive.

Further, Standards New Zealand could increase customer satisfaction and confidence by offering its products and services in ways that are more accessible and affordable, potentially increasing the adoption of its standards products and growing its customer base as a result.

Finally, Standards New Zealand could explore different ways of working to deliver our products and services more efficiently, building the capacity to respond to changing market requirements with greater agility.

This could mean, for example, looking to leverage wider MBIE capabilities to help deliver activities targeted by this strategy or looking at options for taking a more flexible and innovative approach to meeting demand by making the best use of our resources. In doing so, Standards New Zealand will ensure that it remains relevant and operationally sustainable, adding greater demonstrated value for New Zealand.

This strategy deliberately targets priority areas that are most likely to help Government, iwi/Māori and industry to meet the needs of Aotearoa New Zealand now and into the future.

Environmental factors

The government’s economic plan, released in late 2022, is focused on “supporting Aotearoa New Zealand to become a high wage, low emissions economy that provides economic security in good times and bad”. The plan includes two priorities with a strong economic growth focus, which Standards New Zealand sees strong alignment to advance our own strategic aims, namely:

  • Unleash business potential by building a supportive and flexible business and regulatory environment that promotes innovation, knowledge generation, capability building, integrity and quality investment, and by partnering with key industries to develop focused transformation programmes.
  • Strengthen our foundations by investing in quality, future-focused infrastructure and institutions that will provide the foundations to support high-wage jobs and a sustainable, climate-resilient economy. A regulatory environment that supports resilience and change will also be key.

While maintaining a focus on these priorities, we also note that the economic climate poses certain challenges that Standards New Zealand will need to factor into its planning, to achieve the desired outcomes.

Domestically (at the time of this strategy), business and consumer confidence has dipped, and Aotearoa New Zealand has been in a period of recession. For Standards New Zealand, an economic recession could serve to dampen demand for our products and services, negatively impacting our revenue capability and the potential to add value to New Zealand.

Internationally, the world economy is in a period of structural and geopolitical change and the destructive impacts of climate change and conflict are increasingly being felt. While an increasing awareness of climate change impacts represents an opportunity for Standards New Zealand to increase the range and volume of climate change related standards on offer, growing global instability has the potential to change the international standards landscape, as other countries focus their efforts on addressing shifts in the geopolitical climate. It is important that Standards New Zealand pay close attention to international developments, to ensure that it is well placed to respond appropriately to any global changes likely to affect its interests.

For example, there is a trend associated with greater nationalism than has been the case in the past to the detriment of globalisation, a concept which is important to the ongoing support for, value of, and spread of international standards.

Now more than ever, standards to support trade, market access and effective supply chains and product and service innovation are needed, to support New Zealand’s economy.

Our overseas counterparts

Many national standards bodies in other countries have selected strategic priorities comparable to those identified in this strategy, in particular in the areas of climate change and the digital economy. For a snapshot of other standards bodies and their associated priorities, please refer to Appendix 1.

These common priorities offer the best opportunity for cross-country collaboration, potentially enabling Standards New Zealand to more readily achieve its strategic goals.

Other national standards bodies advise that they also face a number of challenges to their operations. The following themes arose during the ISO General Assembly in 2022:

  • Relevance – Suitable standards are available from non-standards bodies (for example, private organisations and industry bodies), which are perceived as being able to produce standards more nimbly than national standards bodies. The “classical” standards development approach(3) may be regarded by parts of the sector as very “old world” and not fit for purpose for today’s needs. Other obstacles noted relate to the technical nature of standards, which are not always easily understood by laypeople.
  • Speed to market – The market demands speed, but national standards bodies take time to develop consensus-based standards. The area of digital technology and its associated rapid pace of change poses a particular challenge for standards bodies.
  • Relationships with governments – Standard bodies that are not part of government struggle to forge effective working relationships with governments, and many regard working with government as a new frontier. Standards New Zealand is ahead of the game in this respect, as it is now part of government.
  • Diversity and inclusiveness – It is challenging to get better representation on standards committees so that they, and the standards produced, better reflect the wider societies that they operate within.

This information provides a high level of reassurance that many of the issues faced internationally are comparable to those faced by Standards New Zealand, and the priorities identified overseas and in New Zealand are well aligned.

3 One that is based on consensus standards development, which is regarded by some as overly cumbersome and slow.

The Government's economic plan

  • Unleashing business potential
  • Strengthening international connections
  • Increasing capabilities and opportunities
  • Supporting Māori and Pacific aspirations
  • Strengthening our foundations

Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment

To grow Aotearoa New Zealand for all

  • Digitally enabled
  • Partnering with Māori
  • Regulatory stewardship
  • Empowered by data
  • Thought leadership
  • Financially sustainable
  • Our people
  • People-centred
  • Transition pathways

Te Whakatairanga Service Delivery

Fair markets that thrive

  • Impactful
  • Accessible
  • Data-driven
  • Sustainable
  • Encouraged
  • Safe and well
  • World-class stewards of our systems
  • People and communities at the centre of what we do
  • Fairness and respect
  • Best-possible value from our services and regulatory systems

Market Integrity

Delivering world-leading regulation to protect fairness and integrity of markets in New Zealand

  • Self-help
  • Smart regulation
  • Sharp connections
  • Sustainable model

Standards New Zealand

Prosperity and protection through standards

  • Climate change
  • Digital economy
  • Business sustainability
  • Customer service