Hulda works as a technical analyst in Sebrae, whose mission is to help small businesses compete on an equal footing and foster entrepreneurship. It aims to strengthen the national economy, where micro- and small businesses (MSEs) make up an astounding 99 % of all Brazilian enterprises and contribute to 25 % of the country’s GDP. The non-profit organization provides support on many levels, such as information technology and finances. More specifically, the project Hulda has been leading over the past few years concentrates on ways to access innovation and technology through standards.
Accessing technical knowledge
For Hulda, accessing technical knowledge is one of the biggest challenges for MSEs in Brazil, and this is where she believes standards can help. “Standards represent the cutting edge of technical knowledge. If MSEs can have access to these documents and know how to use them, they can bring this knowledge into their business,” she explained to me after the awards ceremony.
But, she admitted, standards do not always address the sector-specific needs of MSEs, and small-business entrepreneurs find it difficult to get involved in the process in order to shape it. This is why, five years ago, Sebrae (in collaboration with ISO’s Brazilian member, ABNT) set up a project to help MSEs better understand the benefits of using standards, identify their standardization needs and take part in their development.
New areas of work were defined as a result, and 10 new project committees were established within ABNT to develop standards that address the sector-specific needs of MSEs. “For example,” said Hulda, “we started talking to people in the bee-keeping sector and we saw that they had a lot of questions about how to make beehives, which type of wood to use, and the size and shape of the hives,” she told me. “Working together, we were able to define the most efficient way of making these hives, and this knowledge is now available to bee-keepers around the country, in the form of a standard. We have seen the honey yield go up significantly since introducing this standard,” she added.
In addition, Hulda has been looking into ways of helping MSEs get to grips with standards, as she believes their implementation can be challenging for small companies. “At the moment, we are working with the hospitality sector to help them put in place food safety management systems in preparation for the 2014 World Cup which will be held in Brazil,” she said. “ISO 22000 can be difficult for very small enterprises to implement. So we are working with hotels, bars and restaurants to help them, making the standard more accessible.”
Onto the international stage
As part of the award, Hulda will receive 20 000 Swiss francs with which to finance a future project for small businesses. Within this project, she hopes to take the benefits of her work with Sebrae in Brazil onto the international stage. Over the coming year, she will research similar initiatives in other countries with the aim of establishing guidelines to support small businesses in developing and using standards. The results will be presented at next year’s General Assembly in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
About the ISO Prize
The ISO Prize was created to honour individuals who promote the use and understanding of ISO standards. The new award has a unique characteristic that sets it apart from other distinctions : it is designed specifically for people who don’t work within ISO, a member body or a technical committee.
The idea was suggested by former ISO President Dr. Boris Aleshin as a way of saying thank you to those who help champion the cause of standards, but who, being outside the ISO system, do not always get the recognition they deserve.