Laurel Brunner: Wheels of ISO Grinding Slow

ISO 2015The work of ISO is often seen as being grindingly slow and not always effective. But that’s the way of consensus building. It takes time and it’s a process that allows documents to mature as they evolve, taking everyone’s input into account and ideally reflecting it in the work. Often the end result is very different to what was envisaged at the start, which means many standards are well developed and robust. The process can be agony, especially for environmental standards. But despite its effectiveness, slow development of environment standards is not good enough.

ISO recognises this and has set up a Climate Change Co-ordinating Committee (CCCC), made up of various experts half of whom represent external stakeholders, such as governments and industry. Needless to say there is no representative of the printing and publishing industries in the cohort. The goal of the CCCC is to “advance climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts worldwide” and throughout 2015 the group is reviewing existing ISO standards related to climate change. They are surveying selected experts and companies in order to gauge how climate change standards, such as the ISO 14000 series, are being used.

The CCCC is also trying to work out what developing countries require when it comes to climate change standards, although this is arguably a matter more for individual countries than for ISO. A roadmap is also under development and ISO is working on collaborations with international climate organisations. They want further input and participation and to be able to provide advice on how best to coordinate with other environmental organisations.

This is all terribly worthy stuff but like so many of these things it’s at risk of becoming self-serving. It’ll keep career bureaucrats busy, but what can the CCCC achieve without concrete targets and goals? One such should be to require all ISO technical committees to consider environmental impact within their area of work.

Currently the environment and Greenhouse Gas management standards are the preserve of a dedicated technical committee. This reflects an unfortunate reality: climate change and environmental management are seen as something independent of everything else, but the environment is not a vertical topic. It is a horizontal one because the environment affects all aspects of social, economic, commercial and political life. Treating environmental matters as the preserve of environmentalists, is a mistake which requires organisations such as ISO to help rectify. All ISO technical committees should be considering what their sector or area of work needs with regard to environmental standards that help mitigate climate change. Fortunately ISO TC130, the committee serving the printing and publishing industries, has done this so progress with environmental standards for print is slowly but steadily being made.

Laurel Brunner



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Rob van den Braak

Printer’s devil (1964), phototypesetter, offsetprinter, teacher of graphic techniques, salesmanager, productmanager, trade journalist, founder of BlokBoek e-zine (2011). But above all husband, father, friend and lover of life in southern Spain (since 2010).

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