Whats in a Standard

As a new ISO brochure International standards and “private standards” states, 'Any organization may claim to have developed a “standard”, but not all Standards are created equal.' The brochure underscores the differences between Standards that are developed using well described and accepted principles and disciplines, and 'private standards' that are developed by industry consortia and potentially other groupings.

It's an area of concern for Standards New Zealand, as International Development Manager Karen Batt says, 'Consumers may be confused by the large number of private standards that are being developed in areas covering social and environmental issues. Standards that are developed through Standards New Zealand, ISO, or other internationally recognised Standards bodies go through a robust development process, unlike many private standards. Key elements to this process include transparency, openness, impartiality and consensus, effectiveness and relevance, and coherence.'

In the case of international Standards bodies such as ISO and the IEC, the Standards must also address the concerns of developing countries. In fact, these international Standards bodies develop their Standards according to principles stipulated by the World Trade Organization Technical Barriers to Trade Committee.

As the 12-page ISO brochure states, 'coherence, harmonization, and a closer level of cooperation between the developers of private standards and the formal international Standards system needs to occur … Ultimately, the goal of “one international Standard, one test, and one certificate” should be pursued in these domains in order to achieve global acceptance, as well as their intended impacts.'

'New Zealand and joint Australian/New Zealand Standards are developed only when a suitable alternative is not available at the international level – and we use a similar development process,' Karen says. 'In fact, because of our rigorous development process, our Standards have often served as the basis for international Standards. An example of this is the Risk management – Principles and guidelines ISO 31000. As one review of the international Standard stated at the time of its release in 2009, “one of the many positive aspects of the international Standard is that it was built on the solid footing of the groundbreaking 1995 Australian/New Zealand Standard for Risk Management”.

Note: ISO 31000 is available in New Zealand as AS/NZS ISO 31000:2009 Risk management – Principles and guidelines.

'For such a small country, New Zealand is also well represented at the international level. New Zealand is a full-voting member on 72 ISO technical committees and subcommittees and 32 IEC technical committees and subcommittees. We absolutely support Standard coherence and alignment.'

According to the ISO brochure, 'Given the broad array of claims, labels and certificates in the marketplace, it is more important than ever that users and consumers have confidence in the integrity of such assessments … Without such harmonized approaches, it is impossible to have common recognition and acceptance of test reports and certificates, potentially resulting in a restriction of trade.'

View or download a copy of International standards and “private standards” [540 kB PDF]

(Note – prices subject to change from 1 May 2010)

Published in international.