A Deep Dive Into The History of ISO Standards

History of ISO Standards

ISO standards are built in a way that might seem repetitive, right?

As an ISO consultant, I would agree with this statement. Unfortunately, the standard likes to repeat itself a little bit and may be ambiguous at times as well. That is why when an organization comes to a point where it wants or needs to implement an ISO-based management system, the services of a consultant are acquired. However, this repetition stems from the origin of the first ISO standard. Do you know the history of ISO standards?

Despite having some sort of repetition, an ISO standard needs to be implemented in a diligent way. This ensures that the organization ends up with a management system that is not too complex and is not overly bureaucratic. Having a complicated and document-heavy management system is not very effective. Yet, it is very easy to wind up in this position if you have little to no experience in implementing an ISO standard.

But, we tend to focus a lot on the how-to of the implementation process. Although this is a critical aspect, it is important for us to understand where Iso came from. By learning its history, we can understand ISO and its dynamics further.

The History of ISO Standards – Birth of ISO

Like in many situations, when there is a problem, a solution must be found or created. In this case, ISO knows its beginning thanks to World War I and World War II.

The Problem

You see, back in World War I, the Allies faced multiple obstacles, one of them being that when they were shooting bombs at the enemy, these bombs were not always exploding. They had defects. Come World War II, the Allies now had a bigger issue. They had multiple sub-contractors who took care of the manufacturing of the bombs. However, these bombs were sometimes blowing up while in storage. As a result, the Allies were suffering because of this. They were losing resources, manpower and time.

The Solution

The solution that the Allies came up with is that the sub-contractors had to develop a management system for their operations., Each supplier drafted their operations as best as they could and they handed it to the Allies. But of course, what worked for Supplier A may not have worked for Supplier B. That meant that the Allies had to decipher the logic behind all management systems that were drawn up by the suppliers.

This led the Allies to provide some form of guidelines to the sub-contractors. The Allies advised them that this was how their management system should be, with the do’s and don’ts all lined up. This was known as the first quality management system, what is today known as ISO 9001 really.

However, interestingly enough, the first recognized ISO standard was not formed until after the war ended. On the 23rd of February 1947, the International Organization for Standardization was launched.

Yes, if you take the acronym of the name, it should technically be IOS and not ISO. I don’t know if this was due to the influence of the French or maybe because of Steve Jobs… But Apple didn’t come into creation some 30 years later.

But jokes aside, this is how ISO was born. It’s great that we have such systems in place but it’s sad that it came as a product of war.


Whether you’re after ISO Certification, internal audits, or results-oriented consultancy, Luke has the plan for you. Reach out to him and start your journey today.
ISO Consultant in Malta


Luke has a plan for you whether you want ISO certification, internal audits, or results-oriented consulting. Contact him immediately to begin your adventure.

The Long Road from 1947 till Today

Up until 2023, one can safely say that there are approximately around 24,000 ISO standards in existence. As you can imagine a lot of work was done throughout the years from 1947 up till today. Of these 24,000 ISO standards, only around 20 to 25 constitute a management system. The rest focus on product specifications and standardization.

Let’s take ISO 9001, one of the most popular ISO standards out there. This talks about the importance of creating a quality management system, or a QMS in short. The latest version of ISO 9001 dates back to 2015, so one can say that it is soon time to have a revamp of this standard. That is why it is formally known as ISO 9001:2015. The last 4 digits at the end signify the year in which it was last updated. The same can be said about ISO 14001, an ISO which puts the spotlight on the environmental implications of a business organization. This was last updated in 2015.

One must note that an update is sometimes needed not for the sake of having it more modern. But in today’s world, where technology is growing at a rapid pace, technology changes and some may even be outdated after a couple of years. And with new tech, comes new risks, opportunities, opportunities and threats.

ISO 9001 was given birth in 1987. During that time, standards met the needs of the manufacturing industry. The reason is that at that period, there was a big boom in the manufacturing industry. Nowadays, the standard has been adapted and can apply to a plethora of industries, ranging from laboratories to the construction industry, food suppliers and even software companies.

I can say that the majority of my clients who seek to implement ISO 9001 are not coming from the manufacturing industry. So yes, with time, ISO standards have evolved. They must, to stay relevant.

A prime example of this is ISO 27001. This was last updated in 2022, so the new version is quite modern. But before ISO 27001:2022, the standard did not focus on cloud computing. Ten years ago, the standard did not go over software as a service, or about hybrid workplaces, and the risks and threats that may arise as a result of the new software and services we are using on our digital platforms.

Of course, the main principles are not scratched from one version to the next. But a few changes are bound to be needed since we live in a hyper-tech world.


As an ISO management system consultant, Luke Desira will make it his mission to put your company in a class above all others! Read more about how to get ISO certified with Luke Desira here.

If you are searching for information about the history of ISO standards and the different types of ISO certification, read more here, and find out about the 10 pitfalls that you may encounter during the implementation process of different types of ISO certification.

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