ISO Compliance and Why It Matters

Michael Nyhuis

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has developed thousands of different standards to date. These ISO standards set global best practice for a range of business functions and legal compliance.

Popular ISO standards cover important areas like quality management, IT security, service quality, and environmental impact. They are developed by experts and are continually reviewed and improved over time. These varied topics are all integral to the ongoing success of modern organizations.

By achieving ISO compliance, organizations can drive sustainable improvements to their business operation. Organizations can use standards to maintain product consistency and improve service performance.

  ISO standards are trusted by organizations from across the world, so compliance is also a boost to business reputation. This guide will explain why ISO compliance matters and explore examples of key ISO standards.

What is ISO compliance?

ISO compliance is achieved when an organization meets the requirements outlined in a specific standard developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). ISO has developed thousands of standards which cover all areas of business. They are frameworks used by organizations to embed internationally standardized business practices.

The benefits of ISO compliance are twofold: driving improvements to internal business operations and enhancing external reputation. ISO compliance means the organization utilizes processes and procedures developed by experts. When upscaling or optimizing operations, ISO compliance helps organizations align with international standards.

SO standards are respected in the global business community, so compliance is a way for organizations to enhance their reputation. Once compliant, many organizations will achieve certification. The process sees an accredited third party perform an audit to confirm compliance. Businesses can be compliant with ISO standards without achieving certification. However, becoming certified acts as a clear trust signal to prospective customers and partners.

  ISO compliance generally isn't a one-time thing, as organizations are encouraged to perform ongoing compliance monitoring. A key part of ISO standards is the act of reviewing and maintaining compliance. This way, an environment of continuous improvement to processes and procedures can be achieved.

A system to collect detailed documentation, internal audits, and operational records is needed for compliance monitoring. A popular method is the use of compliance software to collect, store, and analyze this data. These measurements are particularly important if the organization has achieved certification. The organization will need to complete periodic audits from the accredited third party to retain their certification.

Why does ISO compliance matter?

ISO compliance matters because it is internationally recognized and can drive clear improvements to business operations. In business, standards are needed to ensure a consistent level of service quality.

Although ISO compliance itself isn't a legal requirement, the standards will naturally align with different regulations across industries. For example, an organization may use an IT security standard to bolster cybersecurity, helping to achieve GDPR compliance.

  ISO compliance can be an efficient path to driving lasting improvements to specific areas of a business. When upscaling or reviewing a business operation, ISO standards provide clear insight into what is best practice. Standards are an important tool in change management. Organizations gain clarity through reviewing old processes and embedding new ones.

  Beyond operational improvements, ISO compliance can enhance the reputation of businesses. Consistency is important in most industries. ISO compliance is an indication that measures are in place to ensure consistently high-quality products.

Standards may provide frameworks for business disruption processes or IT security policies. All are important in ensuring an organization's risk management is robust. Because of this, organizations will often require ISO compliance as a prerequisite within the tender process.

What ISO compliance means for business

There are thousands of different ISO standards, many covering different business practices and industries. From environmental standards to cybersecurity, the result of ISO compliance varies with the standard.

Although these are numerous ISO standards, there are also key standards which are utilized by a huge range of companies. These standards are renowned for their flexibility, as they can be embedded across different industries and settings.

Here we explore some of the most well-known ISO standards in today's business world, and what compliance can bring to a business.

Maintain product and service quality

A quality management system helps organizations improve core processes within the business. This system helps to strengthen policies and procedures across the whole business operation, from development to service delivery.

ISO 9001 is one of the most well-known standards for creating a quality management system. In fact, ISO 9001 is often synonymous with quality management systems across business. The standard is known for its flexibility, as it can be utilized throughout many settings and industries.

Compliance with ISO 9001 will mean organizations have a system to evaluate performance and drive continuous improvements. The aim is to improve the quality of service or product sustainably.

Strengthen cybersecurity standards

Organizations of all sizes increasingly rely on digital technology to operate, and many process data on a regular basis. To secure IT networks and lower the risk of sensitive information breaches, organizations should have an Information Security Management System (ISMS) in place.

Having an ISMS in place helps to lower the risk of data breaches and provide procedures for reacting to severe cyber incidents. This is an important part of GDPR compliance and should be central to IT governance and digital risk management.

  The ISO 27001 helps organizations create and maintain an ISMS, strengthening an organization against cyber threats. Compliance with ISO 27001 means an organization has clear IT security controls in place to protect operations, hardware, and employees from cyber attacks.

Ensure business continuity in times of disruption

Having procedures in place to identify and mitigate disruptions to operations is an important part of building business resilience. Clear plans to resolve business disruptions will save organizations time and lost profits. Business continuity plans should form a key part of risk management strategies in all sizes of organization.

  ISO 22301 provides the framework for organizations to embed a reliable Business Continuity Management System. It's recognized as the international standard for procedures to mitigate potential business disruption. Compliance with ISO 22301 provides reassurance to partners in the supply chain that an organization can cope with disruption.

Improve workplace conditions

Maintaining a healthy workplace should be a core aim for all modern organizations. Strong health and safety procedures are required to meet regulatory obligations and help mitigate hazards in the workplace. By being proactive in risk management, organizations can reduce workplace injuries and maintain the well-being of employees.

  ISO 45001 can help organizations build an Occupational Health and Safety Management System. It focuses on protecting and improving both physical and mental health within the workplace. Organizations will need to perform an internal audit of workplace hazards, as well as future risks and challenges. Compliance with ISO 45001 ensures health and safety is an integral part of strategic decisions.

Lower the organization's environmental impact

Environmental impact is fast becoming a key consideration for both customers and prospective business partners. The use of resources, the release of emissions, and the creation of waste are key considerations for any corporate responsibility program.

Organizations are often required to meet strict environmental laws and regulations. With this in mind, it is important to efficiently embed environmental considerations in strategic planning.

  ISO 14001 provides organizations with a framework for creating an Environmental Management System. Compliance requires organizations to set out environmental policy and objectives. This helps focus efforts, keeping environmental considerations at the forefront of business decisions.

  In addition, compliance helps organizations prepare for environmental emergencies within risk management plans. This can lower the risk of business disruption. Organizations can also make efficiency savings by assessing the use of resources and reducing wastage.

The benefits of ISO compliance

ISO standards are recognized across the business world, and for good reason. They are developed with input from industry experts and are reviewed regularly to be in line with changing business practices.

  When building procedures and systems within organizations, it's worth understanding industry best practice. By adopting tried and tested processes, organizations can make efficient strategic decisions.

 ISO compliance can drive improvements to the operation of the business and is also a clear trust signal for prospective partners.

 Benefits of ISO compliance include:

  • Embed best practice procedures and processes across the company.
  • Promotes a process of periodic review and improvement within companies.
  • Designed with input from expert bodies, and regularly updated to reflect changes in business.
  • ISO compliance is recognized across the world by organizations, governments, regulators, and companies.
  • Compliance with ISO standards often helps companies comply with industry or legal regulations.
  • Business standards are often designed to be applicable across different industries and sizes of company.
  • Clear trust signals to prospective partners and customers.

Keeping track of ISO compliance

Organizations often need to manage numerous areas of compliance at once. Whether tracking legal regulations, ISO standards, or other frameworks, it can feel daunting to keep on top of compliance.

Diligent Compliance software makes tracking compliance straightforward. Perform compliance monitoring against regulations and standards and keep records and documents all in one place. Perform internal audits, spot gaps in compliance, and identify trends.

Book a demo with Diligent today to understand how compliance software can make compliance easy.

Related Insights

The Rising Tide of ESG – Navigating the Road Ahead


The Board's Role in Leading and Enabling GRC


Board and Executive Collaboration: Components of a Secure Platform for the Evolving Workplace

White Paper
Michael Nyhuis
Michael Nyhuis, Director of Audit & Compliance at Diligent, is a modern governance expert with over 25 years of experience. Michael helps organizations manage their compliance with both internal and external obligations, identify gaps, and drive continual improvement.