From recommendation to requirement

In 1946, delegates from 25 countries met in London to discuss the topic of standardization. In 1947 the first international standard was taking shape and so began the long journey to present day. In this, the year of the 70th anniversary of that first publication, we are now preparing to incorporate ISO 9001:2015.

From those early days in a small picturesque house in Geneva, the ISO organisation now spans the globe with members in 163 countries. 150 full time employees now work in the Central Secretariat in Geneva.

How the ISO evolved

In 1951, the first standard was called a recommendation. It carried the title, ISO/R 1:1951 Standard Reference Temperature for Industrial Length Measurements. The following year saw the creation of an informational journal, documenting work in-progress and updating members on changes and published standards.

In 1960, ISO 31 was published in an effort to standardize units of measurement. This has since been replaced with ISO 80000. Also during the 60’s a committee to oversee developing countries was formed (DEVCO), Correspondent membership was introduced and the first standard relating to freight containers was put forward. By the end of the decade ISO appointed a new Secretary General. In his speech, he declared:

“Political nationalism will most probably prevail for as long as we live. Economic nationalism is about to disappear. And technical nationalism has disappeared!” Olle Sturen, ISO Secretary General.

With the introduction of air quality and water quality standards in the 70’s, along with more active participation from other nations, Olle Sturen worked hard to establish a truly international force.

Are standards really necessary?

There has been criticism that the certification process wasted a lot of time. However, the ISO 9000 group of standards has become a widely-used management tool, with almost one and a half million global users. With the launch of a website in 1995 and online standards in 2000, the organisation embraced technology to move forward and stay relevant.

As companies need to manage their information security, environmental impact and risk assessment, it is safe to assume the ISO is here to stay. With the introduction of new technologies such as nanotechnology and biofuels, standards play a key role in decision making. Software such as Rallivo, significantly assists businesses with ISO-related requirements, thanks to automated supplier evaluation.

Under the watchful eye of Secretary Rob Steele, procedures remain streamlined and efficient. With over 19000 standards and 163 members, progress is constant. To crown those achievements, the ISO won an Emmy award in 2008 for its work producing an advanced coding standard. So, the next time you are collating all those details, just remember you are part of a rich history!