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ANSI President Discusses U.S. Leadership as Host of 2012 ISO General Assembly

Joe Bhatia speaks with ISO Focus+ on standards, sustainability, and ANSI’s role

Published: Thursday, July 5, 2012 - 10:34

Editor's note: The following interview with ANSI CEO, Joe Bhatia, first appeared in the June 2012 edition of ISO Focus+ magazine and is reproduced with the kind permission of ISO Central Secretariat.

On Sept. 17–22, 2012, the United States will play host to the world’s standardization community as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) welcomes the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to San Diego.

ISO Focus+: Before we turn our attention to the 35th ISO General Assembly, could you briefly describe the mission of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI)?

Joe Bhatia: As the voice of the U.S. voluntary standards and conformance system, our mission is to enhance both the global competitiveness of U.S. business and the quality of life in the USA by promoting and facilitating voluntary consensus standards and conformity assessment systems, and safeguarding their integrity. But unlike many of our counterparts in other nations, ANSI does not itself develop standards. Rather, the institute oversees the creation, promulgation, and use of tens of thousands of standards, guidelines, and conformity assessment activities that directly impact businesses and consumers in nearly every industry and product line. We initiate activities that address national and global priorities through standardization solutions, and facilitate the public-private partnerships that enable those solutions. Electric vehicles/e-mobility, homeland security, and nanotechnology are just a few of the front-page issues that ANSI is currently addressing through standards coordination activities.

As the U.S. member body and a founding member of ISO—and as the U.S. representative to the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) via the U.S. National Committee—ANSI also speaks as the voice of the USA, promotes the use of global standards, and advocates on behalf of U.S. policy and technical positions in the international arena.

The USA is committed to developing globally relevant, responsive standards, and the United States standards strategy itself supports the multiple-path approach to standardization. Many standards-developing organizations operate on the international stage. What matters is that standards be developed in accordance with the principles of the World Trade Organization Technical Barriers to Trade (WTO TBT) Agreement—openness, balance, consensus, and due process—and include all other elements that are the hallmarks of the strongest and most effective standards and conformance solutions.

ISO Focus+: What motivated you to propose the USA as the venue for the ISO General Assembly in 2012?

Bhatia: ANSI is proud to be hosting this year’s General Assembly (GA) in San Diego, California. ANSI is among the most active ISO members because we know that standards and conformance are critical to addressing the technological, economic, and societal challenges that we all face globally.

Hosting the ISO 2012 GA reaffirms the U.S. commitment to the importance of international standardization, raises awareness of international standardization within the U.S. government and industry, and contributes to the spirit of international cooperation that drives the standardization community.

If there is one key element that is critical to developing the strongest solutions, it is broad participation. With potentially more than 600 invited delegates from 163 ISO member countries and other international or regional organizations, this year’s GA is sure to be a highly interactive and diverse event that is focused on dialogue and action. As host, we look forward to this opportunity to demonstrate U.S. commitment and celebrate international standards as a global solution.

ISO Focus+: ANSI has provided the international leadership of joint technical committee ISO/IEC JTC 1—“Information technology,” since the outset. Why has ANSI invested so much time and effort into this work? What added value has it given to the American information and communication technology (ICT) industry?

Bhatia: From computers and credit cards to information security, the issues that ISO/IEC JTC 1 addresses affect everyone, no matter what nation they call home. Over the past several years, ISO/IEC JTC 1 has introduced a number of key areas of work addressing important priorities in the global marketplace, including cloud computing, smart grid, energy efficiency, and environmental impact. ISO/IEC JTC 1 has also expanded the existing work programs for accessibility, biometrics, personal identification, and security. And just this past year, JTC 1 published a brand new standard, ISO/IEC 27035:2011—“Information technology—Security techniques—Information security incident management,” which provides an information security incident-management approach for use by organizations large and small around the world.

Every single area in which ISO/IEC JTC 1 is active has a profound impact on the way that we share information and communicate, not only within our own industries and countries, but across sectors and national borders as well. So ISO/IEC JTC 1 is really focused on facilitating ICT standardization that is broadly applicable and globally relevant, rather than trying to benefit any one country or industry.

ANSI is very proud to have served as the ISO/IEC JTC 1 Secretariat since the beginning, and to continue to play a key role in the development of international standards that are so crucial to the health of the overall global marketplace.

ISO Focus+: ANSI also provides, jointly with ABNT of Brazil, the secretariat for ISO/TC 242—“Energy management.” The ISO 50001 energy management standards developed by the TC appear to be “on fire” with rapid adoption worldwide. What is your reaction, and what explains this success?

Bhatia: As the secretariat of ISO/TC 242—“Energy management,” alongside ABNT, ANSI could not be more pleased with the global success of ISO 50001. Effective energy use is critical for everyone—from the consumer at home to major, multinational corporations. And with world energy prices soaring and calls for energy security coming from governments, businesses, and consumers alike, the demand for organizations to manage their energy performance has never been more acute.

Companies and organizations around the world have already reported substantial benefits associated with the implementation of ISO 50001, including significant reductions in power consumption, carbon emissions, and energy costs. While individual organizations cannot control energy prices, government policies, or the global economy, they can substantially improve the way they manage energy through the use of ISO 50001.

We know that ISO 50001 has the potential to influence up to 60 percent of the world’s energy demand. That figure is based on information provided by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, and it is excellent news for everyone with a stake in the success of this standard. And while we have already seen very positive indicators that the standard is taking hold around the globe, it may take some time to demonstrate the reach of a standard of this magnitude. We look forward to seeing the full impact.

ISO Focus+: An open session on innovation and sustainability will be held during the General Assembly week. What would you like to see coming out of the open session?

Bhatia: As the technical underpinning of many products and services, standards play a critical role in removing barriers to trade, enforcing free trade agreements, and expanding international markets for goods and services. This is particularly true in high-tech, “green” industries like nuclear, wind, solar technologies, and the smart grid. Standardization has the power to help speed up those developments and translate them into valuable gains in the global market, while contributing to a cleaner, safer, and more sustainable future worldwide. The open session is being specifically designed to encourage dynamic discussions among participants, who will explore how existing and possible new standards can support innovation, and sustainable and green strategies in various subject areas. In terms of outcomes, you can expect to see an actionable report outlining areas of focus where standardization can be leveraged to help spur innovation and global economic growth. ANSI is planning to publish the proceedings in cooperation with the ISO Central Secretariat to help make the meeting’s outcomes available to the broadest possible audience.

ISO Focus+: This will not be the USA’s first time hosting the ISO General Assembly. What has changed since the event was last held in Washington in 1973?

Bhatia: I think the standardization industry itself has seen enormous change. The advent of information technology brought about a whole new set of business needs that rely on standards in more complex and interrelated ways. And, in recent years, we have seen a shift in the evolution of standards to address broad and global issues such as energy, sustainability, transportation, and cyber security. Vast opportunities for innovation and economic growth are developing in new and expanding industry sectors, and standards are absolutely key to helping industry tap into these technologies and bringing them to the market.

In addition, the ISO landscape has broadened, with increased participation from more countries around the world bringing greater opportunities for shared knowledge and global harmonization. ANSI shares ISO’s goal of helping developing countries, in particular, gain the benefits of international standardization, and I look forward to welcoming this diverse group to San Diego.

ISO Focus+: How do you see ANSI in the next five years? What new directions do you see the organization taking?

Joe Bhatia: ANSI has an important and compelling public-service mission. The institute is dedicated to growth, change, and continuous improvement for the overall public good. In the coming years, the core mission of the institute will not change, but our methods and initiatives will respond to the needs of the public. ANSI will continue to focus on activities that will advance trade, protect the environment, improve safety and health, promote quality, and contribute to the betterment of our lives and the global economy.

In the next five years, specific areas of focus for ANSI will likely target sectors that will bring the broadest impact to the community—energy management, IT security, food safety, and environmental safety and health, for example.

Looking forward, ANSI will continue to work with its members, stakeholders, and our regional and international partners to pursue strategic initiatives that create positive change and opportunities for growth.

The ISO 2012 General Assembly in San Diego will certainly be a step in this direction. I hope you will join us.

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The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is the world’s largest developer and publisher of international standards. ISO is a network of the national standards institutes of 162 countries, one member per country, with a Central Secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland, that coordinates the system. ISO is a nongovernmental organization that forms a bridge between the public and private sectors. ISO enables a consensus to be reached on solutions that meet both the requirements of business and the broader needs of society. View the ISO Standards list.