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General information on ISO

  • What is ISO? Open or Close

    ISO (International Organization for Standardization) is the world’s largest developer of voluntary International Standards. International Standards give state of the art specifications for products, services and good practice, helping to make industry more efficient and effective. Developed through global consensus, they help to break down barriers to international trade.

  • What we do? Open or Close

    ISO develops International Standards. We were founded in 1947, and since then have published more than 19 500 International Standards covering almost all aspects of technology and business. From food safety to computers, and agriculture to healthcare, ISO International Standards impact all our lives.

  • Who we are? Open or Close

    We are a network of national standards bodies. These national standards bodies make up the ISO membership and they represent ISO in their country. We have one member per country. More details on our members can be found in the full list of ISO members

  • Can anyone join ISO? Open or Close

    No, not as individuals or as enterprises. Membership of ISO is open to national standards institutes or similar organizations most representative of standardization in their country (one member in each country). Full members each have one vote, whatever the size or strength of the economy of the country concerned. This means that they can all make their voices heard in the development of standards which are important to their country's industry. ISO also has two categories of membership for countries with fewer resources. Although such members do not have a vote, they can remain up to date on standardization developments. Lists of the three categories of ISO members are available on this site.

    A company or organization that is certified to an ISO standard is not an ISO member.

    Individuals and companies can get involved in our work by contributing to the development of standards as part of technical committees, but they cannot become members. For more information on how to get involved click here.

  • Who runs ISO? Open or Close

    All strategic decisions are referred to the ISO members, who meet for an annual General Assembly. The proposals put to the members are developed by the ISO Council, drawn from the membership as a whole, which resembles the board of directors of a business organization. Council meets twice a year and its membership is rotated to ensure that it is representative of ISO's membership.

    Operations are managed by a Secretary-General, which is a permanent appointment. The Secretary-General reports to a President who is a prominent figure in standardization or in business, elected for two years. For more information, see our section on structure and governance.

  • Who pays for ISO? Open or Close

    ISO's national members pay subscriptions that meet the operational cost of ISO's Central Secretariat. The dues paid by each member are in proportion to the country's Gross National Product and trade figures. Another source of revenue is the sale of standards, which covers around 36% of the budget.

    However, the operations of the central office represent only about one fifth of the cost of the system's operation. The main costs are borne by the organizations which manage the specific projects or loan experts to participate in the technical work. These organizations are, in effect, subsidizing the technical work by paying the travel costs of the experts and allowing them time to work on their ISO assignments.

  • What is ISO's relation to governments? Open or Close

    ISO is a non-governmental organization (NGO). Therefore, unlike the United Nations, the national members of ISO are not delegations of the governments of those countries. Our national members are the national standards bodies, or equivalent organizations, in their country. Some of them are wholly private sector in origin, others are private sector organizations but have a special mandate from their governments on matters related to standardization, and others are part of the governmental framework of their countries. In addition, government experts often participate in ISO's standards' development work. So, while ISO is an NGO, it receives input from the public sector as it does from the private sector.

  • What does " international standardization " mean? Open or Close

    When the large majority of products or services in a particular business or industry sector conform to International Standards, a state of industry-wide standardization can be said to exist. This is achieved through consensus agreements between national delegations representing all the economic stakeholders concerned - suppliers, users and, often, governments. They agree on specifications and criteria to be applied consistently in the classification of materials, the manufacture of products and the provision of services. In this way, International Standards provide a reference framework, or a common technological language, between suppliers and their customers - which facilitates trade and the transfer of technology.

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