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Standards are agreed specifications for products, processes, services, and performance. These often represent practices that can resolve problems, avoid issues, create commercial benefits, and allow compliance with legal requirements.

Standards underpin so much of the things we interact with daily. There are clear benefits to using them across the diverse industries that create things, sell things, provide services or generally do business.

Benefits of standards

Standards may come in a variety of forms, including the following:

  • Standards or publicly available specifications that set a benchmark for best practice. These can be cited in Acts, regulations, or other legislative instruments.
  • Interim standards that may be urgently needed in a particular sector, where the necessary research may not yet have been completed. These are usually published with an expiry date and must be reviewed and re-issued as final standards within a certain time period. Interim standards can also include handbooks, guidelines, and codes of practice that provide sector guidance - including how to implement established standards.
  • Auditing tools that assist with measuring performance against established standards or other specifications.
  • Other documents, such as industry guidelines, that use a standards development process to address specific issues. These can become a full standard if required.

Standards are generally voluntary, but these could be mandatory if the standard is cited in legislation. Some situations may require that you follow a standard in order to meet certification or accreditation requirements.

Regulations and standards

Understanding different types of standards

Many countries across the world have organisations developing standards and there are many different types used domestically and internationally. A standard can be broad or specific, for products, components, processes, competencies or services.

Standards are created around a shared common theme or problem. Therefore, some may be more appropriate to a particular place or industry or may be universal and able to be applied anywhere. Knowing what types of standards exist helps you understand the options available.

More information on common terms that apply to standards may also be found on our website.

Common terms explained