Standardization within a business sector (and even within a business itself) is common practice. Standards are best practices established by experts who know the field’s needs. The standards can be about creating a product, managing a process, delivering a service, or other operations.

The development of industry standards has long been a standard practice, too; so that individual organizations can align themselves to external norms, while customers and suppliers can also understand the organization’s processes. While several recognized external bodies create standardized systems, the most well-known and widely adopted standards come from the ISO.

What Is the ISO?

ISO stands for International Organization of Standardization. The ISO is an international body responsible for creating, setting, and promoting standards.

It has published more than 24,000 standards which apply to a wide variety of industries, including manufacturing, healthcare, and accounting. ISO standards are a collection of best practices that promote product compatibility, share solutions and know-how, and identify safety issues. The standards present an approach that international experts have agreed upon.

Businesses use ISO certification to provide proof of compliance to potential customers and win their trust. To do that, however, you need to purchase and achieve the certification.

ISO certification costs differ based on factors such as your organization’s size, industry sector, annual revenue, number of employees, and so on.

What Are the Benefits of ISO Standards?

Maintaining your compliance with ISO standards brings numerous benefits. Foremost, you’ll support continuous business operations without interruption to your daily processes.

Failed ISO compliance leads to pauses while the risk, breach, or lack of compliance is investigated and then fixed. By maintaining ISO compliance, you maintain a better, smoother work environment. For example, most ISO standards direct you to assess potential risks to the business, and then implement certain measures to reduce the likelihood or damage from those risks.

That improves your business operations and conveys a sense of seriousness about quality to your customer base, which fosters trust.

What Are the Relevant ISO Standards for GRC?

Various ISO standards address governance risk and compliance (GRC). Some of the ISO standards that offer guidance and advice for GRC include:

  • ISO 20000 (Service Management)
  • ISO 22301 (Business Continuity)
  • ISO 27001 (Information Security)
  • ISO 27005 (Information Risk Management)
  • ISO 31000 (Risk Management)
  • ISO 31700-1:2023 (Privacy by Design for consumer goods and services)
  • ISO 38500 (Corporate Governance of Information Technology)

Companies can use a hybrid management system, where they combine multiple standards and frameworks to create a solution that meets the demands of organizational stakeholders.

See also

Automating GRC: The Next Frontier in Risk Management

What Types of ISO Standards Exist?

As mentioned, more than 24,000 ISO standards exist today, covering various industries. Among those many standards, however, three stand out as most important:

  • ISO 9001, a standard for general quality management systems (QMS), including vendor management. ISO also has QMS standards for specific industries.
  • ISO 27001, a standard for Information Security Management Systems (ISMS)
  • ISO 14001, a standard for Environmental Management Systems

Different Kinds of ISO Standards

Each ISO standard can be classified into the following categories:

ISO 9000-Quality Management

ISO 9000 is internationally viewed as the best practice for quality management. It outlines the criteria for a quality management system to help businesses improve quality and customer relations. The standard is a set of tools and practices that businesses can use to identify areas of improvement.

ISO/IEC 27000-Information Security Management Systems

ISO/IEC 27000 lays out standards for businesses to safeguard information assets. Companies that manage personal data, finances, intellectual property, or sensitive customer data can use these standards to make sure their information is protected at all times.

ISO 31000-Risk Management

Every business decision involves some risk. ISO 31000 provides companies with a framework for managing these risks by applying best practices for identifying risks and handling consequences.

What Are the Most Useful ISO Standards?

The most popular ISO standards are listed below. Let’s take a look at them in detail.

  • ISO 9001. As noted above, this is a standard for creating, implementing, and maintaining a Quality Management System (QMS) for any company, regardless of its industry, capital, or size.
  • ISO 14001. This ISO standard provides guidelines on implementing an environmental management system (EMS). ISO 14001 requirements give you a framework along with guidelines for creating EMS for any organization.
  • ISO 27001. This ISO standard is for information security. Organizations that meet these requirements can be certified by an accredited certification body after they’ve been audited successfully.
  • ISO 22000. This standard details the requirements for a food safety management system (FSMS). Following this standard allows an organization in the food services industry (either directly or directly) to demonstrate that it is following best practices for safety and hygiene.
  • ISO 50001. ISO 50001 is a voluntary standard that gives organizations a framework to manage and improve their energy performance. It addresses the measurement, documentation, and reporting of energy use and consumption. Additionally, ISO 50001 includes design and procurement best practices for energy-using equipment and other factors affecting energy performance that organizations can monitor and influence.
  • ISO 31000. This is a risk management standard that contains principles to manage risks safely. Implementing ISO 31000 facilitates safe business operations and helps organizations achieve objectives, identify opportunities and threats, and allocate resources for risk treatment.
  • ISO 26000. A relatively new standard, ISO 26000 focuses on social responsibility. It provides businesses direction on how to work in a socially capable manner by explaining their social duty. It also offers guidance on how to pursue activities identified with corporate social responsibility goals.
  • ISO 31700-1:2023. This is the newest ISO standard, released in January 2023. It focuses on privacy by design for consumer goods and services, establishing high-level requirements for protecting consumer privacy throughout their interactions with your product.

What Is the Difference Between ISO and ISO Standards?

The ISO is a worldwide federation of national standards bodies. It’s a non-governmental organization comprising standard bodies from more than 160 countries, each representing one member country.

ISO standards are internationally agreed-upon formulas describing the best way to do a specific activity. They are the main products of ISO.

What Is the Difference Between ISO and ANSI?

ISO and ANSI are two separate standards organizations. ANSI is the American National Standards Institute, a regulatory body that governs only the United States.

The main difference between the ISO and ANSI is that the former is global, the latter specific to the United States. If your business operates in countries beyond the United States, you will want to follow the ISO standards in addition to any requirements from ANSI. If you do not operate within the U.S., you do not need to comply with ANSI.

What Are the General ISO Standards?

General ISO standards are the most common ISO standards. Here’s a rundown of each:

  • Quality management standards that help organizations work more efficiently and reduce product failures.
  • Energy management standards that cut down and optimize energy consumption.
  • Environmental management standards that reduce environmental impact, reduce waste, and make processes more sustainable.
  • Health and safety standards to reduce workplace-related accidents.
  • Food safety standards that protect food from contamination.
  • IT security standards to keep sensitive information secure and protected from unauthorized access.

Manage Your ISO Compliance with RiskOptics

The RiskOptics ROAR Platform can automate GRC and simplify ISO certification. Visit our ISO framework page to learn more about our SaaS compliance platform, which has an ISO audit software tool to easily map controls and perform a gap analysis to better manage your timeline.

Schedule a demo to learn more and ask any questions.

Automating GRC: The Next Frontier
in Risk Management