ISO Stands for “International Organisation for Standardisation”. Since “International Organisation for Standardisation” would have different abbreviations in different languages (IOS in English. OIN in French for Organisation internationale de normalisation), it was decided at the outset to use a word derived from the Greek ‘isos’, meaning “equal”. Therefore, whatever the country, whatever the language, the short form of the organisation’s name is always ISO.
ISO is a Non-Governmental Organisation. Its central secretariat is at Geneva, Switzerland. It has a membership from 148 countries. The members of the ISO are not necessarily Governmental organisations from its member countries. It may be a standard setting body of a member country, which may be set up by its trade or industry associations. ISO acts as a bridging organisation to reach a consensus on solutions that meet the requirements of both business & society, such as the needs of stakeholder groups like consumers & users.
The most famous and often referred to standards are the ISO 9000 and ISO i4000 families. ISO 9000 family is the international quality benchmark in the area of business to business dealings, whereas the ISO 14000 family is the international standard set in the area of environmental protection.
A majority of ISO standards are highly specific to a particular product, material, or process. But the ISO 9000 & ISO 14000 family of standards are universal in nature in the fields of Business to Business Quality Standards & Environmental Protection Standards respectively. They are also known as “generic management system standards”. “Generic” means that the same standards can be applied to any organization, large or small, whatever its product or service – in any sector of activity, and whether it is a business enterprise, a public administration, or a Government department. “Management system” refers to what the organisation does to manage its processes, or activities. “Generic” also signifies that no matter what the organisation is or does, if it wants to establish a quality management system or an environmental management system, then such a system has a number of essential features which are spelt out in the relevant standards of the ISO 9000 or ISO 14000 families.
ISO 9000 is concerned with “quality management”. This means what the organisation does to enhance customer satisfaction by meeting customer and applicable regulatory requirements and continually to improve its performance in this regard. ISO 14000 is primarily concerned with “environmental management”. This means what the organisation does to minimise harmful effects on the environment caused by its activities, and continually to improve its environmental performance.