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Organizational Change for Corporate Sustainability. View Wishlist. The International Organization for Standardization ISO , which is the largest organization, works with over different international and regional partner organizations. For over 30 years it has had a Consumer Policy Committee COPOLCO where action and priorities are discussed with the involvement of consumer organizations, both at national level and with Consumers International, their international federation. International standards are based on a double level of consensus: amongst stakeholders and across countries.
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Relying on an open, documented and iterative production process, they combine the contributions of national experts with regional and international inputs, through the mechanism of liaison. Information and communication technologies developments and web-based tools have greatly contributed to speed up the dissemination and promotion of international standards. But they have also facilitated their elaboration. The scope of standards has extended from technicalities interoperability, measurement and test methods, data formulation, processing and exchange, performance standards , which still represent the bulk of publications, to management and organizational issues, as well as to service standards and conformity assessment practices.
Practically all technical and economic activities are now covered. For instance, an area of growing involvement of the international standardization system is that of health services and technologies. International standards are therefore developed at three levels. First, the overall management of the health system, with health informatics as a key instrument to support and optimize national health infrastructures; second, the management of hospitals e. The ongoing activity of international standardization is a reflection of the topics which require international collaboration and solutions.
For instance, standards have been developed to ensure consistency in emerging technologies such as the smart grid, the electric vehicle, nanotechnologies, data processing, data centers and more generally, information and communication technologies, energy efficiency and renewable energies. Some of these new topics can be related to the concern for sustainable development.
Is it just because most emerging technologies deal with this subject? No, it reflects a deeper trend.
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In recent years the scope of international standards has progressively been extended to support the three dimensions of sustainable development: economic growth, environmental integrity and social equity. This trend partly reflects a political evolution: non-governmental organizations tend to consolidate and act at a global level. But NGOs are not the only incentive for the increasing presence of sustainable development objectives in international standards. Some financial scandals in the past decade have put pressure on companies and governments to improve and highlight their social responsibility, for which the process and publication of the ISO standard have been illustrative of the need for international guidance and harmonization in this respect.
The publication of this standard has been the successful conclusion of a remarkable endeavor to reach an international consensus on this complex issue.
Some 99 countries, along with 32 international and regional organizations participated in this venture, which led to the overwhelming adoption and publication of the standard in It has now been adopted as a national standard in more than 60 countries and serves as a reference to most leading international social responsibility initiatives such as UN Global Compact, as well as having positively involved the International Labor Organization. Sustainable development is not just a mantra. It requires technical and managerial tools. Let us have a look — but first let us remember the stakes!
While the formal international negotiations have not shown much progress, it is however encouraging that most countries have put in place policies providing for environmental and energy efficiency measures, be it only for their own sake and because these measures make sense economically and socially.
It has also become clear that not only climate and energy issues are related, i. International standards provide tools to implement many of these measures: terms and definitions, metrics energy performance, insulating materials, green house gasses emissions accounting and verification, environmental and energy labeling , design, with eco-design of products, energy performing buildings, management. Innovation is part of the sustainable development equation.
How do standards provide support to relevant new technologies? Innovation is not just invention. An invention is the act of creating something new.
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But successfully disseminating this novelty is crucial, and this is what innovation is about. The dissemination of innovative products and solutions may be dependent on interoperability, on convincing potential clients on their performance and reliability, as well as on the creation of completely new offer and demand markets. International standards clearly support such objectives and allow a global market reach.
Such standards have been defined to facilitate and speed up the development of many technologies: the smart grid, the electric vehicle, solar, geothermal, marine and wind energies, bio fuels and use of biomass, carbon capture and storage, combined heat and power production or intelligent transport systems. International standards set clear, precise and thus useful indications. But they may also provide a holistic approach, which is crucial in the case of disruptive technologies. Think of hydrogen technologies, nanotechnologies or, more recently, biotechnologies, carbon capture and storage, biomimetics or additive manufacturing.
In these new, emerging fields, it is essential to enable innovators to agree on what they are talking about, measure it and assess societal impacts. This is why technical committees have been set up to address the aspects which may be subject of standards, such as terminology, taxonomy, measurement methods, performance, safety or environmental aspects. Sustainable development is not just about technology, it is also a state of mind. Can standards deal with this? But still, they shape our behavior, especially in some formalized activities. They provide tools to support and facilitate customer-supplier relations and to communicate to the public at large.
Within large companies, you have processes, reporting, assessment — you have rules. This is where standards can help. The toolbox of international standards relating to design and management practices is suited to assess and address environmental and social impacts e. We are talking of social responsibility here, but this is also a business matter.
The Impact of Innovation
Adopting these standards may increase the market acceptance and it should definitely reduce risks of failure or delays in the marketing of innovative products and services. It enables to reduce design and marketing costs.
It is thus a way to implement a sustainable development culture at the very level where it can make a difference: companies. Indeed, any organization should assess the various risks related to its activities or its environment to which it is exposed, and develop adequate responses and measures. In the past ten years, ISO has developed a whole range of tools and solutions to assist organizations in so doing.