Embracing standards to advance innovation and sustainability

Three of the world’s leading international standards bodies – ISO, IEC and ITU -- have declared October 14 as World Standards Day. Standards are a crucial part of everyday life, contributing to advance innovation and make our world a safer place.

For 2023, World Standards Day organisers have adopted the theme of ‘Shared Vision for A Better World: Incorporating SDG 3’. SDG 3 is one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the UN and it focuses on ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being forall. ISO declares that there are 3,534 standards helping to meet SDG 3 commitments.

“Some of these may not spring immediately to mind as ensuring healthy lives, but they do and it says something about the need and impact of standards every day, around the world,” says Barbara Frencia, CEO of Business Assurance in DNV. “It is therefore encouraging to know that 83% of respondents in our recent ViewPoint survey rely on their management systems – and by extension standards – to support their SDG commitments.”

Standards make things work.  They provide best-practices, rules, definitions or guidance used to design and manufacture products or implement processes to manage risks and operational aspects. From quality to safety, environmental performance, information security, and diversity, equity and inclusion, there are international and national standards for almost everything.

Some may find standards imposing or a means of centralised control, but their application safeguards consumers, ensures reliability and continual improvement. Standards are often the outcome of a specific need and collaborative development with input sought from and given by businesses, industry experts, NGOs, governments, and other stakeholders. More importantly, as statistic as standards may be perceived, organisations need them to responsibly, safely and securely leverage on innovations.

For example, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been described as ‘a potential saviour of the world’. The flip side is that when not implemented and managed responsibly, negative consequences can be substantial. Truth be said, this is the case for many technologies and throughout history standards have contributed to ensure reliable, ethical, responsible and safe development and application.

As AI is increasingly used in diagnostics at hospitals sound implementation is critical to prevent treatment based on the wrong assumptions. Healthcare organizations are therefore already looking to the upcoming ISO 42001 standard to ensure patient safety and build trust in the technology’s application.