Based in Geneva, ISO was formed in 1947 when the need for international standards became apparent as companies continued the globalization that started prior to World War II. The organization's name, ISO, is not an acronym, but is the Greek term for "equal." Aside from eliminating different acronyms depending on which language is being used, "ISO" also communicates the overall mission of the organization: to ensure that "equal" processes are in place regardless of where activities might occur (Williams, 2003). During its initial years, the organization focused on developing technical standards and making them availablełat a costłto companies. Today, much of the focus is on "soft" issues. The well-known ISO 9000 standard, now supplanted by ISO 9001, 9002 and 9003, focuses on quality management, for example. ISO 14000 and 14001 focus on environmental issues ("Overview," 2005).
The most immediate benefit of ISO may accrue to organizations. Companies that are ISO-registered or ISO-certified may enjoy some advantage when selling to Europe, for example. However, the greater benefit to companies is that ISO standardsłand particularly ISO 900X standardsłforce companies to evaluate their internal processes. In many cases, this exercise can result in devising improved methodologies that can reduce cost and improve quality and result in greater customer satisfaction as a result (Williams, 2003).
ISO standards benefit government by providing an international standard which can be used when governments set out to devise their own standards for environmental issues, for example. If governments choose to deviate from the international standard, they at least have a guideline as to what those standards are, and understand how those standards were developed ("Overview," 2005).
Individuals benefit from recognizing that ISO-branded products and services are developed w