International standards are standards which are normally developed by international standards organizations. These standards are usually available to be considered and used worldwide. The most recognized organization for developing international standards is the international organization for standardization (ISO). ISO plays a major role in facilitating international trade and cooperation through its support in the development of standardization and other related activities.
ISO addresses the standardization of many fields with an exception of a few. Some of the fields which it does not address include telecommunication, and electronic and electrical engineering. Standardization of electronic and electrical engineering is handled by the international Electrotechnical commission while that of telecommunication is handled by international telecommunications Union’s telecommunication standards sector (WebFinance, Inc, 2012).
The aim of this paper is to discuss a number of international standards and address some of their issues such as their purpose of implementation, how widely they are used, examples of specifications/rules which are set by these standards etc.
Examples of International Standards
ISO 9001:2008 Quality Management System
It is an international auditable standard which act as a supplementary guideline on quality management and assurance. It was developed by ISO and is not directed to any specific industry or product, but it is universally applicable and recognized. All organizations willing to trade internationally must comply with this standard else their market niche will be limited. Any organization willing to be awarded a certification on this standard must be scrutinized by an accredited independent auditor to verify that its operations comply with this standard. To retain the certification, an organization is supposed to maintain its compliance all through (ISO, 2011).
The main aim of ISO 9001:2008 is to enhance customer satisfaction through an effective application of the management system (ISO, 2011). ISO 9001:2008 certification benefits a firm in a number of ways.
For instance, a firm will increase it productivity, gains credibility and a wide range of recognition, and total quality management system can be built on the structure provided by it. ISO 9001:2008 is widely used globally and so far it has been implemented by more than a million organizations in 175 countries (ISO, 2011). This standard is revised now and then to improve its effectiveness. Some of the benefits of revising this standard include: it becomes easier to use, compatibility with other management systems is improved, it becomes easier to translate as well as understand, and the language it is written in becomes clearer.
International standards on auditing (ISA)
ISAs are professional standards that act like a guideline to an auditor when conducting financial statements audit. These standards are normally issued by IFAC (International Federation of Accountants) through another body initialized as IAASB (International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board). International standards on auditing consist of a set of 36 standards. Each standard structure comprises the following sections: introduction, definitions, objectives, requirements, and application and other explanatory material (International Federation of Accountants, 2011). All of these sections describe clearly how an auditor is expected to carry out his/her responsibilities.
The requirements section in particular begins it statements with the following phrase “the auditor shall”, so that the auditors may be keen on what they are doing. Any practicing auditor is supposed to understand the entire content of an ISA. In this context, he/she will be in a position to comply with it properly. Practically, an ISA contains the following:
- A risk model;
- An assurance model;
- Guidelines for the management and planning of audits;
- Criteria for assessing audit results and drawing audit opinions;
- The auditor code of ethics;
- Guidelines to quality assurance of the audit work;
- Guidelines of effective audit documenting.
ISA are widely used and many countries require publicly-traded companies to prepare their financial statements according to these standards. World Bank has introduced a program which is aimed at helping its member countries in implementing ISAs. This will assist in strengthening the financial reporting regime (International Federation of Accountants, 2011). This program has helped many countries to achieve high-quality financial reporting through their comparability analyses of national auditing standards with international standards. The member countries are also able to determine the degree with which applicable auditing standards are complied.
ISO 14004:2004 Environmental Management System- General guidelines on principles, systems and supporting techniques
It is an international auditable standard which act as a supplementary guideline on organization’s environmental management system. This standard is structured in such a way that, it assists an organization to set its environmental objectives, achieve them and be in a position to verify that they have been achieved. Through the implementation of this standard, an organization is able to cope with the impacts of its activities on the quality of the environment (ISO, 2010). The key elements of this standard include:
- An environmental policy;
- Operation and implementation;
- Corrective and checking action;
- Management review.
These elements are very crucial because they help an organization achieve its environmental objectives. ISO 14001:2004 helps an organization to meet its internal as well as external objectives. The two major internal objectives which an organization achieves after complying with this standard include: employees are guaranteed that they are working in an environmentally responsible organization, and the top management is guaranteed that the operations of the organization are not causing harm to the environment.
On the other hand, examples of the external objectives include: complying with the environmental regulations, providing assurance to external stakeholders on environmental issues, providing a framework for demonstrating conformity which may include certification, and supporting the organization’s communication and claims about its own plans, policies and actions (ISO, 2010).
If an organization wishes to be awarded certification on this standard, it can do so through two ways. One, it can apply for certification through an accredited independent auditor or the management can declare compliance with the standard having met all the stipulated requirements.
International standards are very important for organizations with an intention of trading internationally. Some countries do not allow organizations which have not met international standards to trade under their territory. Therefore, it is very important for internationally trading organizations to comply with international standards which apply to their businesses. Complying with international standards is also a great advantage to an organization because anyone willing to trade with such an organization will have confidence in it. In most cases, international standards are meant to improve the productivity of an organization as well as the quality of its products. Thus, it should be mandatory for all organizations globally to comply with international standards which lie under their field.
International Federation of Accountants. (2011). The Clarified Standards. Web.
ISO. (2010). ISO 14000 essentials. Web.
ISO. (2011). ISO 9000 essentials. Web.
WebFinance, Inc. (2012). International Standards Organization (ISO). Web.