Our history

1901 – 1914 In the beginning

Sir John Wolfe-Barry - the man who designed London’s Tower Bridge - instigated the Council of the Institution of Civil Engineers to form a committee to consider standardising iron and steel sections on 22 January 1901.

Subsequently, on 26 April 1901, the first meeting of the Engineering Standards Committee took place. As a result, the variety of sizes of structural steel sections was reduced from 175 to 113 and standardisation was underway.

In 1903 the need to indicate to buyers that goods were 'up to standard' led to the creation and registration of the British Standard Mark - to become known later as the Kitemark®. When applied to tramway rails the number of gauges was reduced from 75 to 5.

1914 – 1945 Standardisation grows

In World War 1, British Standards were used by the Admiralty, the War Office, the Boad of Trade, Lloyd's Register, the Home Office, the Road Board, the London County Council and many then colonial governments.

During the 1920s standardisation spread to Canada, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. Interest was also developing in the USA and Germany.

On 22 April 1929, the Engineering Standards Committee, (since 1918 the British Engineering Standards Association) was granted a Royal Charter. A supplemental Charter was granted in 1931 changing the name, finally, to The British Standards Institution.

When World War II broke out, ordinary standards work was stopped and efforts were concentrated on producing 'war emergency standards', with the British Government officially recognising BSI as the sole organisation for issuing national standards in 1942.

Between 1939 and 1945 over 400 war emergency standards were produced.

1946 – 1975 International consolidation and consumer concerns

1946 saw the first ever Commonwealth Standards Conference, held in London and organised by BSI, which led to the establishment of the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO).

By the late 1950s and 1960s the market place was flooded with consumer goods, many of dubious quality. As a result, 1953 saw the Kitemark® applied to domestic furniture, pressure cookers and motorcycle helmets to help consumers know whether goods were well produced.

Standards were also published for subjects such as checking air pollution, nuclear energy, safety colours for use in industry, schools and office furniture and the carrying of live animals by air.

The Women’s Advisory Committee was formed in 1951 to advise on standards affecting the domestic consumer. It was the precursor of today’s Consumer and Public Interest Network which coordinates consumer representation on all BSI’s technical committees for consumer products.

1959 saw the opening of the Test House at Hemel Hempstead to test equipment for export to Canada, the beginning of Healthcare and Testing Services. Government regulations also introduced the compulsory application of the Kitemark® for car seat belts and motorcycle helmets which was conducted at Hemel Hempstead.

1975 – 1997 Management systems standards

The world's first management systems quality standard, BS 5750, was published by BSI in 1979. In 1987, it was superseded by the ISO 9000 series of international standards which BS 5750 inspired.

Revised in 1994, 2000 and then in 2008, the international quality management systems standard has proved a global success with more than 1 million ISO 9001 certificates (2000 and 2008 combined) issued in 178 countries and economies by the end of 2009.

Following in the successful footsteps of BS 5750, BSI published the world’s first standard for environmental management systems, BS 7750, in 1992.

Its international successor, ISO 14001 was published in 1996 and revised in 2004. In the 13 years since its introduction the standard has been rapidly adopted by business – up to the end of 2009 more than 220,000 ISO 14001:2004 certificates had been issued in 159 countries and economies.

BSI Group also began its international expansion, establishing BSI Americas in Reston, Virginia in 1991 and establishing its first Asian office in Hong Kong in 1995.

Since 1998

BSI goes global in 1998, after changes to the Royal Charter, and BSI Group acquired:

  • CEEM, a leading American management system training and publication services provider, and
  • International Standards Certification Pte Ltd, a Singapore based certification organisation.

In January 2002, KPMG's ISO registration business in North America was acquired, making BSI Group the largest registration body in North America. In 2003, BSI acquired 100 per cent of BSI Pacific Ltd, in order to consolidate the Group's penetration of the immense Greater China certification market.

BSI also acquired a 49 per cent shareholding in British Standards Publishing Limited (BSPL) realising a new sales, distribution and licensing agreement to expand the Group's ability to deliver standards to a wide range of industrial and commercial markets within the UK and worldwide.

In 2003, BSI also celebrated the Kitemark's centenary and becoming a business to business Superbrand.

In 2004, the Group acquired KPMG’s certification business in Holland – KPMG Certification B.V. – to provide an enhanced range of services to businesses across the Benelux region and the rest of continental Europee.

In 2006, BSI acquired:

and the business of Greenall Barnard Associates Ltd trading as ASI-QS, a UK-based company which specialises in Six Sigma training and implementation.

In 2008, BSI's Kitemark® was awarded Superbrand status in its own right joining BSI's award for the fourth time in successive years.

In April 2009, BSI acquired the Supply Chain Security Division of First Advantage Corporation, USA and in May 2009 acquired Certification International S.r.l., providers of management systems assessment and certification in Italy. Subsequently, in August 2009, BSI acquired EUROCAT, the German healthcare certification and testing company.

In 2010, BSI opened new offices in Qatar and Saudi Arabia. In March it acquired gas certification body GLCS, the leading certifier of gas related consumer equipment in the UK and one of the top three in Europe. At the end of the year, BSI acquired the Italian certification business of BS Services Italia S.r.l (BSS) to strengthen its position in the world's third largest management systems certification market, and Systems Management Indonesia (SMI) to strengthen its service capacity for Asian customers.

As a result of these strategic moves, and through more than a century of growth, BSI Group now delivers a comprehensive business services portfolio to clients, helping them raise their performance and enhance their competitiveness worldwide.