In 1946, delegates from 25 countries met in London to create a new organization ‘to facilitate the international coordination and unification of industrial standards’. It came to be known as ISO (derived from the Greek word isos, meaning equal), or the International Organization for Standards in English. It has 164 global network of national standard bodies across the world. It is a not-for-profit that has made more than 22,500 International standards that address global challenges.
According to their website, ISO standards help
Make products compatible, so they fit and work well with each other
Identify safety issues of products and services
Share good ideas and solutions, technological know-how and best management practices
They have identified standards for the size of paper, measurement, credit cards, information systems, food safety, transportation, the environment and so much more. The standards help industries to stop reinventing the wheel, thereby reducing costs and become competitive globally. They also address climate change and sustainability through best practices at a company level.
The 14000 standard
In 1996, ISO developed the 14000 standard for companies and organizations looking to manage their environmental responsibilities to reduce waste and efficiently use resources. Other environmental issues such as air and water pollution, soil contamination, sewage and other operational factors are also addressed to encourage suppliers to be more compliant.
ISO 14001 specifically maps out a framework for measuring a company or organization's environmental impact. There are over 14,000 companies worldwide that have been certified to ISO 14001. Climate change and the environment has becomes a real critical issue and an imminent threat. ISO 14000 has garnered great interest from organizations and governments worldwide as they have come to realize that the past fragmented, reactionary approach has not generated any real impact. Many countries say they will favor ISO 14000 certified companies in procurement contracts.
The ISO 26000 standard
In November of 2010, ISO added another important standard: the ISO 26000 Social Responsibility standard. It provides guidance on how businesses and organizations can be socially responsible, ethical and transparent. This standard only provides guidance rather than requirements, so it cannot be certified. Representatives from governments, NGOs, industries, consumer groups and labor organizations from across the world came together to develop these guidelines.
The standard aligns with the UN Sustainability Development Goals, the UN declaration of human rights, and the International Labor Organization's labor practices. It helps organizations identify their impact on society, stakeholder expectations, be compliant with International laws and expectations, and prioritize sustainability issues.
Their holistic approach focuses on these seven core subjects of social responsibility:
Fair Operating Practices
Community involvement and development
ISO 26000 helps companies create a stronger, beneficial relationship with stakeholders, suppliers, investors, and the community. By promoting social responsibility in all aspects of manufacturing and selling, it fosters trust and authenticity to an organization.
Some other sustainable ISO standards:
ISO 20121- a practical tool for managing sustainable events
ISO 20400 - Sustainable procurement
ISO 37101- Sustainable cities and communities
ISO 13009- Tourism and related services
ISO 15392- Sustainability in buildings and civil engineering works
These ISO standards help bring clarity and uniformity to conversations and actions around sustainability best practices. The standards allow cost of business to be transparent and quantified, and holds organizations more accountable to their stakeholders. They help companies in developing countries get global access and facilitate fair trade while getting rid of redundancies and waste while looking out for the greater good of the planet.