This paper addresses how the development of ISO standards will act as a guiding body to provide the foundation of common understanding for environmental issues and concerns. Included in the discussion are the history and progress of ISO, its components, implementation, and registration procedures.
The demands of a growing population and an expanding global economy place increasing stresses on natural systems. The effects are visible on our natural systems from year to year. As global pollution increases, both human health and the environment are adversely affected. Environmental concerns are, therefore, becoming of paramount importance to consumers, producers, governments, and other interested parties worldwide. These groups, individually and collectively, are pressuring companies to demonstrate better environmental stewardship and accountability. Accordingly, organizations are continuously assessing their environmental performance. These assessments do not, however, assure that the organization's performance will meet its policy requirements. Only a structured management system can accurately assess performance.
At least a dozen countries have developed environmental management system standards, but there is no compatibility among them. As a result, international companies are forced to deal with a patchwork of environmental requirements that increase the cost of doing business and create possible trade barriers. Globalization is demanding worldwide standardization of environmental controls.
History and Progress of ISO
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) was formed in 1946 and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. Its purpose is to facilitate standardization as a means of promoting international trade. ISO is an "industry-driven" organization, although its membership consists of the standards-setting organizations of over 100 member nations. ISO is not an acronym in any language: it is an official nickname derived from isos, a Greek word meaning equal, as in isobar, isometrics, and isosceles triangle (Arnold, 1993 and Henkoff, 1993).
The ISO has developed standards - documented agreements of technical specifications - that companies use as guidelines to ensure that materials and products fit their purpose. For example, the formats of credit cards, automatic teller machine (ATM) cards, and phone cards are derived from an ISO standard. Cards that adhere to the standard, which defines such properties as thickness, can be used worldwide (Nash and ehrenfeld, 1996).
The ISO's work has traditionally focused on narrow technical and safety issues such as standards for paper sizes, symbols for automobile controls, and metric screw threads. This narrow focus shifted in 1979 when ISO formed a new and aggressive technical committee, TC 176, which developed the much acclaimed ISO 9000 series of quality standards in 1987.
In 1991, the ISO formed the Strategic Advisory Group on environment (SAGe) and charged it with considering the appropriateness of an international environmental management standard. SAGe was to decide whether an international environmental standard would accomplish three specific objectives:
SAGe's findings indicated that an environmental management standard would promote a common approach to environmental management and recommended that the ISO proceed with such a standard. In the fall of 1992, the ISO Technical Committee on environmental Management, TC 207, was created to begin negotiations on and drafting of ISO 14000.
This development appealed to the industrialized world since many of the major manufacturing countries were in the process of developing national environmental management standards. Approximately 15 countries had already developed national environmental management standards by 1992. In addition, Germany, Japan; and Canada were in the final stages of product eco-labeling programs. ...