Misconceptions sometimes shed a false light on standards and myths begin to develop.
Myths about standards are scare stories based on hearsay, rumors and half-truths, many of which have been repeated so often that they have become accepted truths within the public and media consciousness. By debunking particular 'standards myths' we hope to reflect some positivity back onto standardization.
Standards are only relevant to large, established business...
All businesses can benefit from standards, from small local companies to global heavyweights. Through strategic standardization, market access, innovation and profitability are all given powerful support, while regulatory obligations can be met simply and effectively.
Standards address quality, efficiency and best practice. These are vital for both small and larger companies. They create competitive advantage, inspire trust and reduce business cost whilst opening markets.
The publication 'Standardization for SMEs. Building on the benefits' explains how standards bodies explore ways to make it easier for SMEs to realize the benefits of standards.
Standards are only applicable to products…
A large number of standards ensure the quality, compatibility and safety of a vast selection of manufactured goods. However, there are also many standards that have a similarly positive influence on service provision and business management.
Services account for between 60 and 70% of the economic activity in the 27 Member States of the European Union. For this reason, the promotion of the services sector has become a top priority for Europe. Go to sector 'Services' to find out more about the standardization activity in the domain of services.
Finding the most appropriate standard will be difficult…
In order to take full advantage of standards, you need to be able to get hold of the relevant standard easily. The National Standard Bodies (NSBs) make standards available.
Access to standards is easy when understanding where to start your search. When deciding on purchasing a particular standard, it can be helpful to acquire first some information as to the frame in which the standard is active and areas in which it can be applied. Make sense of an abstract as each standard contains a scope or abstract to help you decide whether it is relevant to your business. The CEN Technical Board gives full support to NSBs to make the abstracts of European Standards available on their web site. The added value is that these abstracts are now available in the local language.
Most of the Standards Bodies make online search functions on standards available in their local language. Standards bodies are looking into ways to make it easier to trace standards – from online searches to collections of standards for particular sectors – and offering guidance on how to look for a standard. NSBs are investigating ways of enabling companies and organizations to make better buying decisions. This can include putting together sets of relevant standards for specific sectors, disciplines and types of organization and offering guidance on how to trace relevant standards. Trade associations may inform their members of standards relevant to their sector or discipline.
An overview of the National Standards Bodies per country is here and the Affiliates are here.
I can't have a say in the drafting of standards…
European standards are business driven and anyone who is affected by a standard can have a say in its content. Representatives from government, society at large and businesses of all sizes determine the contents of standards. You can find more information in 'How to get involved?'.
Buying a standard is expensive…
There are clear, tangible benefits for your business in using standards. Many initiatives at national level facilitate access to standards. These include promotional campaigns, reduced costs and subsidies for standards, financial support for attendance in technical meetings, facilitated access to relevant documents and standards online. In addition there are training and translation facilities and interpretation services to have a better understanding of the scope of standards and their application.
Contact your National Standards Body (NSB) to find out what offers you can benefit from. The list of NSBs can be found here.
Introducing a standard will take up a lot of time, effort and costs…
The first step to create and manage a standard is to identify your business need and to contact the National Standards Body in your country or a National or European Federation or the CEN Management Centre.
The best practice for the creation of a standard is in the frame of a Technical Committee, drawn from business, trade associations, government, research environment and academic institutions, consumer and interest groups, etc.
The standardization bodies are exploring how to improve the practical issues regarding the involvement in the standardization process.
Remote participation through online solutions is further examined, for example, enable submitting comments on draft standards and discuss those standards online.
Other technologies might be used such as electronic discussion forums and facilities for electronic meetings, which would make participation in committees simpler and cheaper.
Moreover there is a role for trade federations and associations, which may be able to get involved in the process on behalf of their members. This may have an additional benefit of adding extra weight to your arguments by clustering these from different companies.
National Standards Bodies are also working to make the involvement of your business more effective and are investigating the opportunities for training or support.
How can you evaluate whether the participation in the standardization process was worthwhile for your business? Standards bodies are working on a method for evaluation and they consider also impact assessments, and a methodology to evaluate standardization projects, including the level of involvement of stakeholders.
Keep in touch with your National Standards Body and/or the Trade Federation to be informed on new opportunities that are offered.
The list of the CEN National Members is here.
Standards inhibit innovation…
The progress of innovation requires a good balance between collaboration and competition. Standardization can provide this balance. Standards facilitate innovation and are part of research and development activities without compromising intellectual property.
Innovation is an important standards driver improving links between standardization and research e.g.:
- results of research projects can be invaluable to standardizers;
- research projects need to have state-of-the-art information on standards available or under development;
- standards activity may itself generate the need for additional research, for instance into appropriate test methods.
Read more on the 10 things standards can do for innovation and download the brochure 'Standardization supporting innovation and growth'.
CEN and CENELEC have established the joint strategic Working Group addressing Standardization, Innovation and Research (STAIR). Get more information on research and innovation.
We don't need standards – we already have the best solution…
Having the 'best' technological solution is not always enough. Standards can make the difference. Standardization creates customer confidence, market growth and technological evolution. This allows access to state-of-the-art technology, strengthening innovation capacity, and effective and profitable competition through factors as product differentiation.
Contributing to standardization process at European level is of no use in a global world...
Standards give you access to 500 million consumers and European standards align with international standards as far as possible.
CEN coordinates its work with the International Standards Organization (ISO), the world's largest developer and publisher of International Standards. ISO is recognized by the United Nations and follows the practices recommended by the World Trade Organization. The accord that governs this relationship, known as the 'Vienna Agreement' was signed in 1991. This relationship strengthens the applicability of European Standards on a global scale, increasing the competitive advantage of European business in products and services.
To avoid duplication of work, it also streamlines the planning of new standardization work as CEN and ISO commonly will adapt one or the other standard. Today more than 2500 European Standards are identical to ISO. Moreover and ISO standard adopted as a European standard will be implemented as an ISO/EN by the 30 CEN Member Bodies and conflicting standards will be withdrawn. The latter is unique for the European Standardization System.
For more information on standardization work in an international context go to 'Relations outside EU and EFTA'.Top