International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is an international body that develops standards. These standards make a positive difference, not just to for the industries, but to society as a whole. They are useful to industrial and business organizations of all types, to governments and other regulatory bodies, to trade officials, to conformity assessment professionals, to suppliers in both public and private sectors, and ultimately, to people in general in their roles as consumers and end users. For the planet we inhabit, International Standards on air, water and soil quality, and on emissions of gases and radiation, can contribute to efforts to preserve the environment.
For developing countries like Pakistan, International Standards that represent an international consensus on the state of the art constitute are an important source for transfer of technology. By defining the characteristics that products and services will be expected to meet on export markets. International Standards give developing countries a basis for making the right decisions when investing their resources.
ISO was established in 1947 in order to formulate and promote international standards for industrial products. Today, 120 countries around the world are members of this alliance. ISO 14004:2004 is the standard set by the ISO for environmental management systems (EMS).
ISO 14004:2004 specifies the requirements for an EMS, which provides a framework for an organization to control the environmental impact of its activities, products and services, and to improve its environmental performance continually. ISO 14004:2004 provides guidelines on the elements of an EMS, its implementation and the principal issues involved.
ISO is a network of the national standards institutes of countries, on the basis of one member per country, with a Central Secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland, that coordinates the system. It is a non-governmental organization; its members are not necessarily, as is the case in the United Nations Organization, delegates of governments. However, ISO occupies a special position between the public and private sectors. This is because, on the one hand, many of its member institutes are part of the governmental structure of their respective countries, or are nominated by their governments. On the other hand, other members have their roots individually in the private sector, having been set up by national partnerships of industry associations.
ISO acts as a bridging organization in which a consensus can be reached on solutions that meet both the requirements of business and the broader needs of society, such as the needs of stakeholder groups like consumers and users.
The emergence of regional and global markets, International Standards create a level playing field for all competitors on those markets. The existence of divergent national or regional standards can create technical barriers to trade, even when there is political agreement to do away with restriction of any kind on imports.
For end users, the worldwide compatibility of technology, which is achieved when products and services are based on International Standards, brings them an increasingly wide choice of offers, and they also benefit from the effects of competition among suppliers.
ISO 14004 standards support the best environmental management practice offering to help organizations address all three dimensions of sustainable development – social, economic and environmental. If implemented evenly all over the world, they can contribute a lot in preservation of environment on our planet.