The “shifting power equation” is the central theme of this year’s annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, 24-28 January, Davos, Switzerland. The meeting attracts more than 1 000 industry and economic leaders joined by as many key players from political, academic and societal institutions.

The shift of power is seen at various levels: to big emerging economies, with China and India in the lead; to new technologies allowing more connectivity and networking; to collective intelligence becoming more important than individual intelligence, and to customers becoming stronger than corporations.

The participants voted that climate change (38%) and emerging markets (33%) are the issues which will have the greatest impact on the world economy in the coming years, with climate change constituting by far (55%) the greatest threat.

In this context, ISO, which was represented by its Secretary-General Alan Bryden, was able to highlight some current developments which can contribute to addressing these global challenges.

First of all, ISO provides an effective mechanism for developing international consensus amongst countries and stakeholders on technical and business issues. This mechanism comprises its network of national members in 159 countries and its links with more than 600 international and regional organizations collaborating with its more then 180 technical committees that develop standards for an increasing scope of technical, management and conformity assessment issues.

The collection of some 16 500 ISO Standards is being updated and augmented at the pace of more than 100 International Standards per month.

Here follows a selection of ISO developments relevant to this year's debates at Davos.

  • ISO’s Action Plan for Developing Countries  is being deployed to raise awareness and increase participation in the development of International Standards, which is already seeing increasing involvement and commitment by China, India, Brazil, South Africa and other emerging economies.
  • ISO’s management system standards are meeting with growing success and diversified use. The impact of ISO 9001:2000 for quality management has led to the development of sector-specific implementations in industries such as oil and gas (ISO/TS 29001), automotive (ISO/TS 16949) and medical devices (ISO 13485). At the end of 2005, at least 776 608 ISO 9001:2000 certificates had been issued in 161 countries, amongst which 143 823 in China and 24 660 in India, both of which were in the top ten countries for overall totals and growth during 2005 (see The ISO Survey)
  • The ISO 14000 family of International Standards relating to environmental management and related issues such environmental labeling and life cycle analysis is being increasingly implemented worldwide in public and private sectors to achieve good environmental practice. The latest addition is the ISO 14064 series for greenhouse gas accounting and verification, which provides metrics for the emerging trading markets of carbon emission rights.
  • International Standards for information and communication technologies now represent some 12 % of ISO's annual production. Examples include the following:
    • ISO/IEC 18043 gives guidance on the detection of intrusions in computer systems;
    • ISO/IEC 19770 benchmarks the provision of software asset management;
    • ISO 21188 provides guidelines to ensure the security of financial transactions on Internet, and
    • ISO/IEC 20000 benchmarks the provision of IT service management.
  • An example of ISO's strong collaboration on ICT-related standardization will be given at Geneva Motor Show in March 2007 where ISO jointly organizes a workshop and exhibition on "The Fully Networked Car" with its partners, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
  • ISO is more and more active on safety and security issues, with the success of its publications on IT security management (ISO 27001), food safety management (ISO 22000 series), supply chain security (ISO 28000 series) and ISO’s new technical committee ISO/TC 223 Societal security addressing issues such as business continuity management and emergency preparedness.
  • ISO is also developing the ISO 26000 standard giving guidance on social responsibility with the participation of some 65 countries and some 34 international governmental and nongovernmental organizations in liaison with ISO’s Working Group on Social Responsibility which has its 2007 plenary meeting in Sydney, Australia, 27 January-2 February.

In relation to energy efficiency and renewable sources, a subject addressed in several sessions in Davos – including by Chancellor Angela Merkel in her opening address as convener of the G8 in 2007 and current President of the European Union – Alan Bryden indicated that ISO has already a substantial collection of standards, but that more should and could be done.

He declared: “International Standards can be the vehicle to disseminate good practices and to open world markets for energy efficient and clean technologies, thus ensuring that the ambitious national and regional policies currently being adopted are synergetic rather than fragmenting, or even creating new barriers to trade."

He added that ISO is collaborating with the International Energy Agency to produce a portfolio and gap analysis of available International Standards with a view to identifying priorities and boosting their production in this area. He also cited the ISO roundtable held earlier this month in Geneva on harmonization of regulations, codes and standards to support the use of gaseous fuels and hydrogen.

Alan Bryden concluded by encouraging global leaders to ensure that their countries and companies become even more engaged in developing and implementing International Standards, adding, “ISO is in the 'engine room' of positive globalization, enabling best practice to be formulated and broadly promoted to contribute to the sustainable development of the planet.”