The usefulness of ISO standards as practical tools for tackling many of today's global challenges has been underlined at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, 26-30 January 2005.

With 148 member countries, ISO is the world’s leading developer of consensus-based International Standards for business, government and society. Its current portfolio exceeds 15 000 standards that provide benefits for almost every sector of activity and technology.

ISO Secretary-General Alan Bryden has had the opportunity at Forum sessions and workshops to communicate the usefulness of ISO standards and to comment on some of the organization's recent achievements and developments.

He pointed out that, first of all, International Standards are an essential tool for facilitating trade, spreading knowledge, and sharing technological advances and good management practice. In particular, Alan Bryden emphasized ISO's close collaboration with the WTO (World Trade Organization) and highlighted ISO's Action Plan to increase awareness in developing countries of the benefits of standardization, as well as their participation in developing ISO standards.

Concerning climate change, a topic high on the global agenda, the ISO 14000 family of environmental management standards provides a 'tool box' of solutions. The current development of the ISO 14064 and ISO 14065 standards on GHG (green house gas) accounting and verification will soon provide bring concrete guidance for the evaluation of projects and achievements, as well as for the emerging trade of emission rights.

With the issues of corporate governance and social responsibility very much on the agenda at Davos, ISO was able to make the timely announcement that the practical work to develop an International Standard giving guidance on social responsibility is being launched imminently. The first meeting of the ISO Working Group on Social Responsibility, in which 32 countries are participating, takes place on 7-11 March 2005 in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil.

Other illustrations of ISO’s contribution to a sustainable world – which was described last year by United Nations Secretary-General Mr. Kofi Annan as “crucial” – are the current development of a management system standard for food safety (ISO 22000) and a number of work items such as those related to water services, energy, quality management, environmental management, information technology and medical devices.

Alan Bryden declared: “It is important that International Standards bring a positive contribution to globalization. The fact that both developed and developing countries take a growing interest in the work of ISO and are increasing their participation shows that ISO standards can provide practical solutions – they are both feasible and being developed now !”

ISO became a member of the WEF in 2004 and is taking part for the first time in its annual meeting in Davos.

ISO’s work programme ranges from standards for traditional activities, such as agriculture and construction, through mechanical engineering, manufacturing and distribution, to transport, medical devices, the latest developments in information and communication technology developments, and to standards for services. They make up a complete offering for all three dimensions of sustainable development – economic, environmental and social – and to underline this focus, the ISO Strategic Plan 2005-2010 is titled "Standards for a sustainable world".