ISO’s 35th GA was hosted by the ISO member for the USA, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), a founder member of the organization. It attracted the participation of 434 delegates from 123 ISO member countries and 13 partner international or regional organizations. The GA took place on 19 and 21 September with a break on 20 September for the open session addressing two of the challenges facing the international community – innovation and the economics of sustainable development – areas where International Standards are making clear contributions. But can they do more ? (See article "Sustainability and innovation").

US Government standards chief praises ISO’s sustainability standards

Dr. Patrick Gallagher, the US Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), delivered an opening speech. He said that ISO is making enormous progress in developing standards for sustainability and is taking the lead in this area through standards like ISO 14001 (environmental management) and ISO 50001 (energy management).

“I applaud and celebrate ISO for taking the lead in sustainability standardization. In particular, ISO 14001 and ISO 50001 are models for how to approach sustainability in practice and in management,” Dr. Gallagher declared.

“Sustainability is the right priority. Wisely managing a world of finite resources is one of the key societal challenges we face. As all of you know, standards play an essential role in how we assess the challenge.

“Sustainability is not about looking at one part of the process, but the entire life cycle of a product : design, production, use and disposal. It’s about engaging producers distributors, regulators, buyers and users.

“In a global market, I can’t think of a challenge more important for us to undertake. As we develop the standards framework, it will also unleash innovation and creativity. It’s a worthy challenge.”

Dr. Gallagher also emphasized the importance of global standards to companies and consumers “because technology is not within national boundaries but on a global scale”.

ISO President, Dr. Boris Aleshin, pointed out that when ISO began operations in 1947, it had 26 members. “Today,” he said, “the ISO family is made up of the national standards bodies of 164 countries, including industrialized, developing and transitional economies, from all regions of the world.”

Dr. Boris Aleshin, ISO President

Dr. Aleshin told delegates that ISO had a huge opportunity to achieve greater strategic recognition of the value of standardization to business, government and consumers. But he warned, “ We, at ISO, need to ensure that customers know about ISO, that we are not just talking from the 'inside to the inside’ – that is, amongst ourselves.

“The 'inside must talk to the outside’ and we must find the most compelling and vivid ways of doing so, so that we show clearly how standards benefit those 'on the outside’. To do this, we should find new forms to communicate, new ideas to debate and decide on actions – and to be simpler, faster and better in everything we do.”

He was followed as a speaker by Jim Pauley, Chair of ANSI’s Board of Directors, who told delegates: “As standards professionals, you know that standards and conformance play a critical role in the economy. We often like to cite a US Department of Commerce figure that standardization impacts more than 80 % of global commodity trade. The jury’s still out on what that will mean for 2012, but in 2011, that 80 % impact came to more than USD 13 trillion dollars.

“It’s clear that effective utilization of standards and conformance promotes technological interoperability and the global competitiveness of all businesses. And greater cooperation and information-sharing will improve cost savings and increase efficiencies – clearly a top priority in today’s economic landscape. When individual businesses do well, there is a corresponding improvement in our national economies.

“But standards and conformance also play another important role in the global marketplace. They demonstrate quality and inspire consumer confidence.”

President urges ISO to define new business model

Innovation was also an underlying theme of a panel discussion facilitated by ISO President, Dr. Aleshin, on the resources ISO and its national members need to meet future customer needs.

ISO needs to embrace a new business model in order to ensure its future and avoid “brewing in its own stew”, he told delegates. Dr. Aleshin called for clarity on what sort of business ISO actually is ­– the central operations of ISO in Geneva, or a multi-billion dollar network comprising the

ISO Central Secretariat and its national members in 164 countries. This was an “exceedingly important issue”, he said.

“We have to address our target audiences together,” he said. “We have to define our customers – whether business, consumers or government – and address their needs with a common understanding. Otherwise we are brewing in our own stew.

“ We do not work well enough together, or with industry and consumers. A lot has been done to meet their requirements, but many do not really know about us well enough apart from professionals.

“I would like us to concentrate on our target audiences and address them with communication and training. We need to propagate our values and promote our products. And we need to discuss the business model of the entire organization and identify common objectives with our international standardization partners, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).”

ISO Secretary-General challenges delegates

ISO Secretary-General, Rob Steele, challenged delegates with his favourite question – “So what ?”

Rob Steele, ISO Secretary-General

“It is clear that solid progress is being made against the key strategic objectives of the ISO Strategic Plan 2011-2015. Key priorities are identified and action is being taken to address these,” he said.

“However, it is also clear that there needs to be a much stronger link between ISO and our key customers. The issues of economic growth and rapidly changing expectations create a significant opportunity for ISO as International Standards can play a significant part in meeting those expectations.

“But we must now look at each other and be bolder. To achieve the potential of the opportunity requires us to look at what standards are needed in the world in ways that allow us to respond to and meet that need in ways that are simpler, faster and better than we ever have before, using all of the skills, experience and credence of the ISO name to meet our customers’ needs. We need to use whatever resources are available to do this – and the time to do that is now. ”

ISO’s strategy

Sadao Takeda, ISO Vice-President (policy)

ISO Vice-President (policy), Sadao Takeda, provided an update on the implementation of the ISO Strategic Plan 2011-2015. While ISO was on track to achieve its strategic objectives for 2015, the business environment had significantly changed due to the global financial crisis.

However, he underlined that ISO had made rapid progress in particular in the information and communication technology (ICT) sector which would have an impact on its core business of information creation and dissemination.

In addition, ISO Council had conducted a risk and scenario analysis to determine action that might be required by ISO to meet the challenges of the economic climate.

ISO’s technical work

ISO Vice-President (technical management), Dr. Elisabeth Stampfl-Blaha, outlined three issues being tackled by the Technical Management Board (TMB), which oversees ISO’s standards development work :

Dr. Elisabeth Stampfl-Blaha, ISO Vice-President (technical management)

Fostering partnerships – She emphasized that thinking in terms of structures was obsolete. Rather than focusing on conflict resolution mechanisms, ISO and its partner the IEC were looking into possible synergies and solving issues upfront, before they became problems

Improving communication – Dr. Stampfl-Blaha underlined that improving the sharing of information was key. Distribution of the TMB Communiqué had been widened to the whole ISO membership so all could provide feedback and indicate their priorities

Enhancing efficiency – She underlined the efforts made to shorten standards development times, leaving more freedom to technical committees to select the best path to achieve consensus quickly

GA with a difference

Among issues discussed during the General Assembly were :

  • Key issues in standardization from the perspectives of partner standardization organizations, the IEC, the ITU and the World Trade Organization (WTO)
  • ISO intellectual property rights (IPR) and the copyright of ISO standards (facilitated by Nicolas Fleury, ISO Director of Marketing, Communication and Information)
  • The resources ISO and its members need to meet future customer needs – ideas on future business models (facilitated by the ISO Secretary-General)
  • Simpler, faster, better IT tools to develop and publish an ISO standard to an iPad, to the Online Browsing Platform and as a PDF (facilitated by David Ratcliffe, ISO Director of Information Technology and Electronic Services)
  • Working with partners to meet the ISO Strategic Plan 2011-2015 – what works and what more can be done (facilitated by ISO Deputy Secretary-General, Kevin McKinley)
  • Standards and education (facilitated by Strategic Advisor to the ISO Secretary-General, Daniele Gerundino)
  • Review of ISO’s governance to make it more efficient and more effective (delivered by the ISO Secretary-General)

In place of long presentations, delegates tackled these issues through panel discussions and break-out sessions to encourage questions and debate. Participants also used electronic keypads to provide rapid feedback.

PowerPoint presentations used to introduce the discussions and break-out sessions, along with resulting reports and recommendations made are available to ISO members on the ISODOC server. ISO’s senior officers are sifting through the recommendations and will be reporting on resulting actions to be taken.

In addition to the changes in format, the 2012 GA featured increased opportunities for networking by introducing “ genius bars ”. During breaks in the agenda, delegates were able to meet members of the ISO Central Secretariat teams in an informal atmosphere and learn more about issues such as IPR and how they can benefit more from services to members, IT tools, and marketing, communication and information.

Developers of ISO 50001 energy management standard honoured

The achievement of a team of experts who developed the ISO 50001 International Standard for energy management were recognized through an award for superior performance. For 2012, the Lawrence D. Eicher (LDE) Leadership Award for excellence in creative and innovative standards development went to ISO technical committee, ISO/TC 242, Energy management.

From left : Amanda Richardson (BSI) ; Leonardo Martins (ABNT); Dr. Boris Aleshin (ISO President); Ed Pinero (ISO/TC 242 Chair); Jason Knopes (Secretary of ISO/TC 242), and Guo Hui (SAC).

Announcing the award winner, ISO President, Dr. Aleshin, pointed out that energy is critical to organizational operations and can be a major cost to organizations, whatever their activities. In addition to the economic costs of energy to an organization, energy can impose environmental and societal costs by depleting resources and contributing to problems such as climate change.

“Individual organizations cannot control energy prices, but they can improve the way they manage their energy consumption,” he said. “Improved energy performance can provide rapid benefits for an organization by maximizing the use of its energy sources and energy-related assets.

“ISO 50001 provides a framework for industrial plants ; commercial, institutional, or governmental facilities ; or entire organizations to manage energy. Targeting broad applicability across national economic sectors, it is estimated that the standard could influence up to 60 % of the world’s energy use ”

ISO identified energy management as one of the top five fields for the development of International Standards and in 2008 created a project committee, ISO/PC 242, Energy management, to carry out the work. ISO/PC 242 was led by ISO members for the United States (ANSI) and Brazil (ABNT). In addition, its leadership included the ISO members for China (SAC) and the United Kingdom (BSI) to ensure that developed and developing economies participate together in the strategic direction and administration of the project committee. It was transformed into a technical committee in June 2011, signifying that it will be developing additional standards.

Today, experts from the national standards bodies of 48 ISO member countries participate within ISO/TC 242, with another 17 countries as observers.

Dr. Aleshin presented the LDE Award to : ISO/TC 242 Chair, Ed Pinero ; Secretaries – Jason Knopes (ANSI) and Leonardo Martins (ABNT); with Guo Hui, representing SAC, and Amanda Richardson, representing BSI.

Kenyan wins ISO/DIN essay contest for young standardizers in developing countries

An essay on the role of standards in the Kenyan economy was announced as the winning entry in the ISO/DIN contest for young standardizers in developing countries. The author is Amwayi Omukhweso William, Assistant quality assurance officer, at the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS).

Amwayi Omukhweso William, winner of 2012 ISO/DIN essay contest

The contest, which is organized by ISO and sponsored by DIN, the German Institute for Standardization, aims to challenge and give an opportunity to young standards professionals in developing countries and economies in transition.

Participants in the 2012 edition had to write an essay in English answering the question, “How do ISO International Standards help industry in your country to respond to local and global market demands”. Young standardizers were encouraged to present their personal views based on their country’s experience.

Announcing the winner, DIN Director, Dr. Torsten Bahke, declared : “The winner has very nicely linked the development objectives of his country, as contained in the national economic blueprint dubbed ʽVision 2030’, to the need to apply International Standards in the sectors that are expected to lead growth, with an emphasis on export markets.

“The need to apply ISO standards for conformity assessment and management systems has also been clearly described. Overall, there has been a very good understanding of the theme by the contestant/winner and he has covered the topic from many angles, showing that he has a clear idea of how ISO standards should be used.”

In an audio message of thanks to the ISO General Assembly, William affirmed: “Standards have and will play a critical role in enhancing global trade by improving market access and enhancing the competitive advantage of products. It is important therefore for countries, especially the developing nations, to leverage on this linkage between standards and trade as this is a crucial driving force for any country’s economic growth.”

Working with partners

The ISO President, Dr. Aleshin, facilitated a panel discussion by IEC’s Vice President, James Matthews ; ITU’s Deputy to the Director of the Telecommunication Standardization Bureau (ITU-T), Reinhard Scholl, and the Counsellor of the WTO Trade and Environment Division (and Secretary of the WTO/TBT Committee), Erik Wijkström. They provided insights on how standardization impacted the world and highlighted key challenges facing their organizations, including the following extracts :

James Matthews (IEC) : ISO and IEC have a rich history, but always moving forward for efficient and productive outcomes. Work flourishes, technology advances, and the two organizations are more collaborative than ever. At the same time, it is vital to understand that standards user need to be able to identify the projects that our of interest to them. National bodies need to be proactive in reaching out to communities of stakeholders. New participants need to see the benefits of global solutions.

Reinhard Scholl (ITU) : The information and communication technology (ICT) industry is very competitive, which is reflected in the standards-setting process. There is a proliferation of organizations developing standards and a growing number of fora on standardization. Companies cannot afford to attend all such fora, but at the same time, if their interests are not addressed, they will continue to create new consortia.

There has been a reduction in the number of standards-setting organizations because of the means and money required. Companies want their interests well reflected. The challenge is how to stay market relevant. ITU has adapted to be relevant by working very fast and today, it has transparent and good procedures. A second challenge is the intersection between ICT and the vertical markets (such as transport and utilities).

Erik Wijkström (WTO) : Standards are “the air we breathe” and the use of international standards is strongly encouraged by the WTO. Since 1995, there have been 45 formal disputes brought to the WTO where standards are issues, but only four are fully fledged disputes – one dispute was around “what is an international standard?”. Being widely used is not a prerequisite for an international standard, but that it has been created by a body in which participation and openness are key. The more countries that participate, the more it will be relevant.

New Council members

The General Assembly elected the following six members to the ISO Council for the 2013-2014 term :

  • DSM (Malaysia)
  • ESMA (United Arab Emirates)
  • IRAM (Argentina)
  • IPQ (Portugal)
  • INNORPI (Tunisia)
  • MCCAA (Malta)


The ISO President and Secretary-General presented the President and CEO of host organization, ANSI, S. Joe Bhatia, with a special gift and read out the text of a special resolution: “The General Assembly expresses its deepest thanks to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) for its warm welcome and the outstanding arrangements it made for ISO San Diego 2012. The General Assembly expresses its heartfelt gratitude to the staff of ANSI for their cooperation before and during the event, which greatly facilitated the proceedings and contributed to its success.”

The ISO President presented the outgoing Treasurer, Julien Pitton, with cufflinks as a token of ISO’s appreciation for his achievements and valuable service during his term of service from 2008 to 2012.

ISO Vice-President (technical management), Dr. Stampfl-Blaha, presented the outgoing President, Dr. Aleshin, with cuff­links as a token of ISO’s appreciation for his achievements as President and delivered a speech thanking him for having led the organization in new directions with enthusiasm.

As a cornerstone of his Presidency, he had notably encouraged ISO to work on ways to innovate and improve the standards development process, to shorten development timetables while providing higher quality documents and improving the relevance of the work to users. More importantly still, he had helped promote the fact that there was strong and direct linkage between the development and use of standards, and innovation.

Next General Assemblies

The 2013 ISO General Assembly will be held in Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation, at the invitation of ISO’s member for the country, GOST R. The 2014 GA will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, at the invitation of ISO’s national member, ABNT.

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