Introduction to ANSI
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has served in its capacity as
administrator and coordinator of the United States private sector voluntary
standardization system for more than 90 years. Founded in 1918 by five
engineering societies and three government agencies, the Institute remains a
private, nonprofit membership organization supported by a diverse constituency
of private and public sector organizations.
Throughout its history, ANSI has maintained as its primary goal the enhancement
of global competitiveness of U.S. business and the American quality of life by
promoting and facilitating voluntary consensus standards and conformity
assessment systems and promoting their integrity. The Institute represents the
interests of its nearly 1,000 company, organization, government agency,
institutional and international members through its office in New York
City, and its headquarters in Washington, D.C.
ANSI facilitates the development of American National Standards (ANS) by
accrediting the procedures of standards developing organizations (SDOs). These
groups work cooperatively to develop voluntary national consensus standards.
Accreditation by ANSI signifies that the procedures used by the standards body
in connection with the development of American National Standards meet the
Institute’s essential requirements for openness, balance, consensus and due
ANSI is often asked about the total number of standards (and standards setting
bodies) in the United States. It is estimated that in the U.S. today there are
hundreds of “traditional” standards developing organizations - with the 20
largest SDOs producing 90% of the standards - and hundreds more
“non-traditional” standards development bodies, such as consortia. This means
that the level of U.S. participation is quite expansive as the groups
themselves are comprised of individual committees made up of experts addressing
the technical requirements of standards within their specific area of
At year-end 2006, about 200 of these standards developers were accredited by
ANSI; there were more than 10,000 American National Standards (ANS).
In order to maintain ANSI accreditation, standards developers are required to
consistently adhere to a set of requirements or procedures known as the “
ANSI Essential Requirements", that govern the consensus development process.
Due process is the key to ensuring that ANSs are developed in an environment
that is equitable, accessible and responsive to the requirements of various
stakeholders. The open and fair ANS process ensures that all interested and
affected parties have an opportunity to participate in a standard’s
development. It also serves and protects the public interest since standards
developers accredited by ANSI must meet the Institute’s requirements for
openness, balance, consensus and other due process safeguards.
That is why American National Standards are usually referred to as “open”
standards. In this sense, “open” refers to a process used by a recognized body
for developing and approving a standard. The Institute’s definition of openness
has many elements, but basically refers to a collaborative, balanced and
consensus-based approval process. The content of these standards may relate to
products, processes, services, systems or personnel.
In its role as the only accreditor of U.S. voluntary consensus standards
developing organizations, ANSI helps to ensure the integrity of the standards
developers that use our
ANSI Essential Requirements: Due process requirements for American National
Standards. A separate process, based on the same principles,
determines whether standards meet the necessary criteria to be approved as
American National Standards. Our process for approval of these standards
(currently numbering approximately 10,000) is intended to verify that the
principles of openness and due process have been followed and that a consensus
of all interested stakeholder groups has been reached.
The hallmarks of this process include:
- Consensus must be reached by representatives from materially affected and
- Standards are required to undergo public reviews when any member of the public
may submit comments
- Comments from the consensus body and public review commenters must be responded
to in good faith
- An appeals process is required
ANSI’s use of the terms “open” and “openness” to describe standards is meant to
characterize documents that have undergone this kind of consensus-based,
transparent process. All ANSI-accredited standards developers follow the Essential
Requirements which embrace globally-accepted principles of
standardization implemented by well-recognized, international standards bodies
such as the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), International
Organization for Standardization (ISO), and International Electrotechnical
The terms and conditions used in the development of “open standards” should
balance the interests of those who will implement the standard with the
interests and voluntary cooperation of those who own intellectual property
rights that are essential to the standard. Such terms and conditions should
readily promote, and not unreasonably burden, accessibility to the standard for
the communities of interested implementers. To achieve such balance, the
payment of reasonable license fees and/or other reasonable and
nondiscriminatory license terms may be required by the intellectual property
rights holders. This balance of licensing rights (rather than waiver thereof)
is consistent with an open standard. The word “open” does not imply “free” from
monetary compensation or other reasonable and nondiscriminatory license terms.
Further, an open standard may involve the payment of a fee to obtain a copy of
the standard. Such fees are sometimes used to offset the costs associated with
managing open standards development process.
The ANSI process serves all standardization efforts in the United States by
providing and promoting a process that withstands scrutiny, while protecting
the rights and interests of every participant. In essence, ANSI standards
quicken the market acceptance of products while making clear how to improve the
safety of those products for the protection of consumers.
ANSI promotes the use of U.S. standards internationally, advocates U.S. policy
and technical positions in international and regional standards organizations,
and encourages the adoption of international standards as national standards
where they meet the needs of the user community.
The Institute is the sole U.S. representative and dues-paying member of the two
major non-treaty international standards organizations, the International
Organization for Standardization (ISO), and, via the U.S. National Committee
(USNC), the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). As a founding
member of the ISO, ANSI plays a strong leadership role in its governing body
while U.S. participation, via the USNC, is equally strong in the IEC.
Through ANSI, the U.S. has immediate access to the ISO and IEC standards
development processes. ANSI participates in almost the entire technical program
of both the ISO and the IEC, and administers many key committees and subgroups.
Part of its responsibilities as the U.S. member body to the ISO include
accrediting U.S. Technical Advisory Groups (U.S. TAGs), whose primary purpose
is to develop and transmit, via ANSI, U.S. positions on activities and ballots
of the international Technical Committee. U.S. positions for the IEC are
endorsed and closely monitored by the USNC Technical Management Committee
In many instances, U.S. standards are taken forward to ISO and IEC, through
ANSI or the USNC, where they are adopted in whole or in part as international
standards. For this reason, ANSI plays an important part in creating
international standards that support the worldwide sale of products, which
prevent regions from using local standards to favor local industries. Since
volunteers from industry and government, not ANSI staff, carry out the work of
the international technical committees, the success of these efforts often is
dependent upon the willingness of U.S. industry and government to commit the
resources required to ensure strong U.S. technical participation in the
international standards process.
Conformity Assessment, the term used to describe steps taken by both
manufacturers and independent third parties to determine fulfillment of
standards requirements, also remains a high priority for the Institute. ANSI’s
program for accrediting third-party product certification have experienced
significant growth in recent years, and the Institute continues its efforts to
obtain worldwide acceptance of accredited certifications performed in the U.S.
One of the best indicators of the strength of the U.S. system is the
government’s extensive reliance on, and use of, private sector voluntary
standards. Pursuant to OMB Circular A119, federal government agencies are
required to use voluntary standards for regulatory and procurement purposes
when appropriate. State and local governments and agencies have formally
adopted thousands of voluntary standards produced by ANSI, and the process
appears to be accelerating.
In summary, ANSI continues to be fully involved in its support of the goals of
U.S. and global standardization and remains committed to enhancing of the
quality of life for all global citizens.