CEN develops European standards and promotes voluntary technical harmonization in Europe in conjunction with worldwide bodies and its partners in Europe. BSI is a leading member of CEN in the development of European standards. An example of a standard developed by CEN and adopted by BSI is BS EN 71 Toy safety.
CENELEC is the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization and is responsible for standardization in the electrotechnical engineering field. CENELEC prepares voluntary standards, which help facilitate trade between countries, create new markets, cut compliance costs and support the development of a Single European Market.
ISO is a worldwide federation of national standards bodies from 140 countries including BSI. It promotes the development of standardization to aid the international exchange of goods and services. ISO's work results in international agreements, which are published as international standards. An example is ISO 9000 – the family of standards for quality management. It can also be expressed as BS EN ISO 9000.
IEC is the global organization that prepares and publishes international standards for all electrical, electronic and related technologies.
British, international or European standards?
Over 90% of British standards have their origins in international work, where UK experts (nominated via BSI’s technical committees) discuss and agree the content of the standards in their sectors with their international peers.
These international groups of experts form technical committees who develop standards, often known as international (ISO or IEC) or European (EN) standards.
The reason for this strong international focus reflects the reality of business life and consumer expectations today: where possibly, firms like to work to internationally (and preferably globally) agreed good practice for their products and services. Standards are voluntary, but they present an opportunity to ease international trade.
BSI is the UK’s national member of the international standards organizations ISO and IEC, and their European counterparts CEN and CENELEC. It is also a member of a third European Standardization Organization, ETSI, alongside industry bodies and companies.
ISO and CEN are generalist in their approach and work across multiple sectors, including construction, management systems, environmental issues and manufacturing. IEC and CENELEC exist to promote electrotechnical standardization, such as wiring and white goods. ETSI’s focus is on telecommunications.
ISO and IEC draw their membership from national standards bodies around the globe, with one member per country. CEN and CENELEC consist of 34 national members each, centred on Europe. All are independent, and BSI is the UK’s member of each. As the UK’s national member, BSI works to ensure UK expert voices are represented in technical committees across all four organizations.
In common with the other 33-member bodies of CEN and CENELEC, BSI adopts all European standards (ENs) as British standards; it also adopts most international standards produced by ISO and IEC. There are cooperation agreements between ISO and CEN and between IEC and CENELEC to promote co-development of standards at both international and European levels.
Are standards the same as regulations?
No, standards are voluntary. Some standards, notably just under 20% of published European standards, can be used by manufacturers and importers to provide a “presumption of conformity” to a number of important regulations, mainly around product safety and performance. Regulators are free to refer to standards if they wish, and standards can be used to help deliver government policies. BSI works with government to ensure the standards system is properly understood.
Why don’t we just have “British” standards for British businesses?
All standards are developed to meet defined needs. If there is international interest in a subject, it makes little sense to focus solely on national need. BSI has a strong track-record in developing standards on a national basis, and then promoting them for international development when interest grows elsewhere, thus promoting trade and cooperation.
If every country had its own national standards, trade would be extremely difficult; agreement to use international standards promotes ease of trade, and can address issues that are of global interest, including product safety and consumer confidence, as well as good business practice.