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International Standards Community Gathers for ISO General Assembly in Cape Town

ANSI President Joe Bhatia Speaks on the Economic Benefits of International Standards

New York, Sep 23, 2009

Over 400 delegates met last week for the 32nd General Assembly (GA) of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Held in Cape Town, South Africa, the event brought together representatives of more than 100 ISO member bodies to discuss International Standards and their impact on business, safety, and the global economy.

S. Joe Bhatia, president and CEO of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and head of the ANSI delegation to the ISO GA, provided thought-provoking remarks on the economic benefits of International Standards at the GA.

“For more than a century, standardization activities in the United States, just like in other parts of the world, have bridged gaps across industries and saved money for organizations in both the private and public sectors,” said Mr. Bhatia. “Despite this long history of success, decision makers in business and industry know very little about standards and conformance. This has led to corporate decisions to downsize or eliminate standards-related sections and programs within companies.

“What we need is a call to action. Corporate America must devote its resources – time, money, and human resources – to the standardization system and its activities,” Mr. Bhatia continued. “That is why we are working to develop targeted, executive-level messaging that will show how the voluntary consensus standards system and its activities can boost business performance.” [Click here to read Mr. Bhatia’s speech.]

Following presentations by Mr. Bhatia and the other panelists, attendees discussed the ongoing ISO project, Methodology to Assess and Communicate the Economic Benefits of Consensus-based Standards. This effort will provide decision-makers with clear and manageable criteria to assess the value associated with using standards and offer guidance to ISO member bodies and other groups who wish to develop studies that assess the benefits of standards within a particular industry sector.

Another issue discussed at the GA was energy and the importance of related International Standards. A full-day Open Session devoted to the topic featured presentations from a number of speakers, including Wayne Perry, technical director of Kaeser Compressors. Mr. Perry spoke from an industry perspective on why energy management in companies requires a systems approach. The ISO GA noted the contribution that ISO standards can make to energy efficiency and renewable energy, both high points of interest on the world agenda.

A proposal raised at the meeting called for an ISO GA resolution positing that there is no conflict when standards and conformity assessment activities reside in the same organization. The proposal resulted in considerable and lively discussion on compatibility between standardization and conformity assessment activities carried out by ISO members. It was recalled that the ISO Council had previously taken a resolution in 1998 stating this same sentiment. As a result of this discussion, the ISO Secretary-General will review all existing documents relating to the matter, and will report on the outcome of this review at the March 2010 ISO Council meeting.

Several changes in ISO leadership were also addressed at the GA:

  • Mr. Sadao Takeda (Japan) was appointed as ISO vice president of policy for the 2010-2011 term.
  • Mr. Jacob Holmblad (Denmark) was reappointed as ISO vice president of technical management for the 2010-2011 term.
  • ISO will soon start the process to call for candidates for the next president.

Additionally, George Arnold, Ph.D., of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, completed his term of office as the ISO vice president of policy. The GA saluted his strong commitment to ISO and his support of its initiatives during his term from 2006 to 2009. Dr. Arnold, a former chairman of ANSI’s Board of Directors, was cited for his valuable contributions to the implementation of the ISO Strategic Plan 2005-2010 and the preparation for the development of ISO's strategy for 2011-2015. [see related news item]

Dr. Arnold was also lauded for his involvement in ISO's innovative fields of work through his chairmanships of the ISO Council Task Forces on energy and on biotechnology, and of the ISO/IEC/ITU-T Advisory Group on Security (SAG-S). His efficient management and fairness in hearing all points of view and in facilitating the emergence of consensus was noted with appreciation, and he was wished continued success in his professional activities and international undertakings.


For more information on the 32nd ISO General Assembly, read the related ISO news item.

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