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World Standards Day 2021 - Standards for SDGs

To mark World Standards Day 2021, our Advocacy Manager, Antonino Serra Cambacereslays out 4 ways in which standards can drive progress in the Sustainable Development Goals to ensure a safe, fair, and more sustainable world for all. 

Standards are part of our daily lives in a functioning marketplace. From the design and manufacturing of our computers, the clothes we wear, the electricity we consume, to the plate we eat from. Standards are what enable consumers in good marketplaces to have the confidence to live in a world that is safe and accessible. Reliable standards are critical to empower consumers to have trust in the products and services that they use on a regular basis. As a global consumer movement, standards are an integral part of the way we protect consumers.

Every year on 14 October, the International Organisation for Standardization (ISO) celebrates World Standards Day to reflect on the importance of standardisationThe theme chosen by ISO for this year's celebration is the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)making an essential link to show how standards can drive progress towards the SDGs. 

Consumers International and our global membership believe in a world where sustainability is the easy, accessible, and affordable choice for consumers. Standards that are solid and consider the rights and needs of consumers, at national and international level, are the first step forward. We work to reduce the confusion around sustainability by ensuring that producers, retailers, and policymakers do all they can to make products safe, durable, sustainable, and resource-efficient; before providing clear, reliable information to guide consumer choice. 

The linkage between standards and the SDGs is pivotal to ensure a marketplace that works for the people and the planet. As defined by the United Nations, the SDGs “apply to all nations and mean, quite simply, to ensure that no one is left behind.” It is not possible to establish meaningful and long-lasting change without ensuring inclusivity in the making of international standards. 

Additionally, to ensure a safe, fair, and sustainable future for all, we must not neglect pressing environmental issues such as climate change. The recent London Declaration, issued during the ISO Week last September, promises to embed key climate considerations into the development of every new standard. It will also retrospectively add these requirements to all existing standards as they are revised, a change on an unparalleled scale.  

The Declaration reads: ISO hereby commits to work with its members, stakeholders and partners to ensure that ISO International Standards and publications accelerate the successful achievement of the Paris Agreement, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the United Nations Call for Action on Adaptation and Resilience." 

This effort is crucial when building in the needs of the people and the planet at the core of standardisation, driving progress towards the SDGs in 2030. 

Dana Kissinger-Matray, Manager Technical and Policy at ISO/COPOLCO adds: Standards translate societal aspirations into concrete solutions for all; they underpin the necessary knowledge transfer that enables all members of society to work together towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. That is why the consumer movement needs to add standards to its sustainability toolkit, get involved, and promote their use. The ISO Committee on consumer policy (ISO/COPOLCO) welcomes and invites this process. 

Here are 4 ways in which this intersection between consumer protection, standards and sustainability can be achieved for a consumer advocacy perspective: 

1. Participate in the development of standards

The development of standards must involve all stakeholders to which the standard will impact, and this includes consumers. Regulations founded upon the fundamental rights and needs of consumers mean the inclusion of environmental aspirations from the perspective of consumption and consumer protection. 

2. Require standards that address sustainability issues

Adoption of standards must go hand in hand with sustainability and consumer protection. Consumers must be assured that these issues are at the heart of the development of standards to ensure that sustainable choices are accessible and affordable for consumers. 

3. Information and transparency

Consumers must be informed of the impact that standards have on the environment and how their application benefits sustainability, helps meet the SDGs and mitigates climate change. Transparency and reliability are essential factors to enable and empower consumers make choices that have a positive impact on our environment. 

4. Promote a culture of collaboration

Among the different actors - consumers, businesses, governments, standards bodies, academics - and between the different instances that can generate changes, such as Consumers International, ISO, United Nations agencies, international organizations that work in consumer protection, the protection of the environment and the conditions of life and well-being for all people. 

For World Standards Day 2021 (14 October), let's think about how standards can meet the needs of the people and the planet today and in the future. Standards can be a valuable tool to drive progress in achieving the SDGs by 2030 and ensure a future marketplace that considers the rights and needs of consumers so that consumers are empowered and enabled to trust that the products and services they use are fair, safe, and sustainable for all.