Standards and certification, a system undergoing change

Pierre Valla

Systems of standards at the national, European and international levels
Thierry Crignou

National systems of standards were set up in the late 19th century, their structures varying from one country to another. Developments in the United States and Japan differed noticeably from those in Europe. These systems now have to cope with the challenge of globalization and formation of regional free-trade zones. A world tour…

AFNOR : Constructing and diffusing know-how and "performance"
Alan Bryden

In a thoroughly changing environment, the Agence Française pour la Normalisation (AFNOR) is evolving to adapt to the new situation in European and international standards. Organized so as to efficiently serve firms, administrations and society, this agency has reinforced basic operations and developed activities that help apply new norms and standards: information, counseling, training and certification. AFNOR is thus consolidating its position among the leading national standards institutes.

Current issues and actors in standards-making
Jean Hyenne

The French system of standards, wherein AFNOR is a key actor, has long been involved in European and international standards and has managed to make them a part of the French system. But the latter must now handle new issues: globalized problems, the increased role played by new actors, changes in technology or regulations, and the strategies adopted by organizations and institutes active in the field of standards.

The economic impact of standards, a British study
Michel Colomb d’Ecotay

The Standards and Technical Regulations Directorate of the British Department of Trade and Industry has issued a short report on the economic benefits of standardization. Drawn up by Prof. Peter Swann in 2000, it examines from a theoretical viewpoint the positive effects of standards and focuses on their relation to public policies. This study has helped advance the DTI’s thinking about how to justify the subsidies it grants for standardization.

A new strategy for French standards given the challenges of globalization and sustainable development
Thierry Chambolle and Gérard Mantel

Current issues in standardization stem from important trends -  globalization and sustainable development - in an evolving environment, which affect the setting of voluntary standards. Big organizations in others countries have drawn up strategies with their partners and made them public. These strategies serve as guidelines for action in a, by nature, quite "diffuse" system. This is what AFNOR, which keeps tabs on developments in France, wanted to do when it proposed a new strategic view of the French system of standards.

Standards in the context of European construction and international relations
Florence Nicolas 

It is not fashionable to speak favorably of the construction of the European Union, which is accused of any- and everything. Even the notion of "standards" lends itself to a sort of glib irony since it is said to imply a drastic - and (it goes without saying) catastrophic - reduction in variety, whether in a "political" sense or in the number of cheeses on the dinner table. European standards are one of the major successes in the EU's economic integration and construction, a success involving all interested parties.

Specifications for assessing compliance
Lucien Tronel

Assessing and certifying compliance with technical standards is a key issue in the ongoing evolution of both technical regulations and the means for evaluating compliance. Each economic activity feels it should be a special case with its own solutions. Beyond a few legitimate differences however, standards produce constants that, not limited to Europe, concern any market economy and are based on relations of confidence between economic actors.

Integrated management and sustainable development
Jean-Luc Straczek

The "citizen firm" is fully involved in the global issue of sustainable development, which seeks to make the economy compatible with the environment and society. Management systems are a concrete tool that, already existing, firms can use as they try to grasp the practical implications of their long-term strategies for pursuing sustainable development. It is but a short step to imagine that standards could help link management systems to sustainable development.

Accreditation in a global context
Daniel Pierre

Accreditation can be defined as "controlling controls". It intends to build up confidence by guaranteeing the competence and impartiality of certified organizations. International agreements for recognizing the results of accreditation aim at facilitating trade - one test and one certificate recognized everywhere.

The legal framework for notifying the EU of accrediting bodies
Fabienne Péraldi-Leneuf 

The notification process lets governments wide leeway for choosing, with the help of EU criteria based on competence and professionalism, national accrediting bodies. Having recourse to an accrediting organization is strongly recommended, but not compulsory. Whatever procedure is chosen, certifying these control organizations is an important phase in the process f building up consumer confidence in product safety. But who will be held liable for a tort involving the certification procedure itself, especially if public authorities are implicated ?

Evaluating firms ethically
François Fatoux

Firms are increasingly judged by their "societal behavior". To evaluate firms, organizations of societal analysis and international organizations have set (nonfinancial) criteria for rating firms that are, little by little, becoming imperative like standards.


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