Climate change, economic & trade uncertainty and changing customer expectations and a new digital landscape are set to transform ISO’s direction in the coming years.
The International Organisation for Standardization (ISO) has unveiled four key factors that it is taking into consideration as it plots course for the future, taking into consideration the possible changes to the landscape that climate change, societal expectations, trade uncertainty and digital transformation are set to usher in.
“Without appropriate standards, it will be impossible to address multiple challenges at a global and national level.”
The announcement came as ISO held its General Assembly talks in Cape Town, South Africa this week to discuss its path to 2030. Jodi Sholtz, Group Chief Operations Officer from the South African Department of Trade and Industry took to the stage and told the audience that “without appropriate standards, it will be impossible to address multiple challenges at a global and national level.”
“Standardization provides the tools to achieve sustainable development, to counter the immediate threat posed by climate change and, amongst other things, secure gender equality and optimal healthcare,” she said.
Speaking of the increased trade uncertainty that has in recent months rocked certain segments of the market, Sholtz said that the ISO standards will play a key role in creating inclusive economic growth. “Globalization has brought in its train massive new production capabilities and capacity. However, it has also resulted in growing inequality, economic concentration and economic marginalization of many developing countries. It is important that a more inclusive growth path is secured, and for that, standardization will increasingly be one of the anchors.”
ISO’s President, John Walter continued to explain that “the economy is obviously one of the most important drivers of change and there is an unquestionable role for us to play in restoring faith in the values of free trade and multilateralism.”
“There has been a ten-fold rise in trade uncertainty in recent years.”
Catherine Grant-Makokera, a trade expert cited examples of the rise in economic nationalism and increasing evidence of protectionism that has resulted in the loss of faith and confidence in international markets coexisting. According to her numbers, there has been a ten-fold rise in trade uncertainty in recent years. “This is important because an increase in the world trade uncertainty index reduces global growth projections,” she said.
The second key area that ISO is taking into consideration for its future plans are changing societal expectations, which the ISO website points to the sharing economy as an example. “Standards are desperately needed in the sharing economy,” said Mark Atwood, founder of ride-sharing app Jrney said. “Does taking extra passengers in your car on a long journey impact your insurance? Does it change anything if these extra passengers were found through an app of your personal network of friends? There are no clear answers to these questions today,” he said.
“Those who stand to lose in the sharing economy are traditional industries that refuse to adapt and those using conventional business models that refuse to evolve.”
Tarryn Daniels from the South African Consumer Goods Council said that standards should underpin the widespread roll-out of the sharing economy, adding that “those who stand to lose in the sharing economy are traditional industries that refuse to adapt and those using conventional business models that refuse to evolve.”
In regard to the importance of sustainability moving through the 21st century, Regina Asariotis of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) took to the stage and said that “international trade depends critically on well-functioning transport links.”
“Environmental challenges such as extreme storms, floods, changes in temperature, humidity or precipitation and rising sea levels will have significant impacts on transportation infrastructure such as ports.”
“Environmental challenges such as extreme storms, floods, changes in temperature, humidity or precipitation and rising sea levels will have significant impacts on transportation infrastructure such as ports,” calling for more risk assessment and new ways of innovative operation to adapt to climate change.
The fourth and final aspect of ISO’s future plan targets the digital landscape and just how remarkably it can change in a short span of time. “Speakers looked at what the rapid evolution and adoption of digital technologies could mean for business and society. For example, what does digital transformation mean for businesses? How are digital technologies changing what and how we trade? And how are digital technologies driving entrepreneurial growth and innovation?” ISO’s Katie Bird wrote on its website.
“Together,” ISO explains, “these four trends - economic and trade uncertainty, changing societal expectations, the urgency for sustainability and digital transformation - make up the disruptive forces that will shape the direction of ISO’s future strategy on the path to 2030,” Bird concluded.