Advanced societies rely on a complex quality and compliance system to ensure proper functioning of the market, protect people’s health and safety and preserve the environment. This system is commonly defined as a national quality infrastructure (NQI) and refers to all aspects of metrology, standardization, testing, quality management, certification and accreditation that have a bearing on conformity assessment.
Many developing countries suffer from a weak NQI, which can be a major impediment to their integration into regional and global markets, limiting the opportunities offered by trade and hindering their ability to improve public welfare in vital areas such as health, safety and environmental protection. Part of the ISO Strategy 2016-2020 involves capacity building for developing countries in areas such as strategy, technical and operational expertise, and relationships with policy makers, to support their participation in international standardization.
This, in turn, helps them strengthen their NQI, thus reducing inequalities within and amongst countries. What’s more, ISO standards themselves contribute to the reduction of inequalities, because they serve as a common language that helps to break down barriers to trade, promote innovation and level the playing field for organizations of all types wishing to compete in national and international markets. We also have specific standards that will help organizations contribute directly to this SDG.
ISO 26000, Guidance on social responsibility, for example, provides guidelines on how businesses and organizations can operate in a socially responsible way, which includes encompassing the principles of non-discrimination and equal opportunities. The core subjects and issues defined by the standard comprise human rights, labour practices, the environment, fair operating practices, consumer issues and community involvement.
An ageing world population brings new challenges, as well as opportunities, for International Standards.