Understanding the context in which ISO operates is essential to defining our priorities. This includes identifying external drivers of change and evaluating their impact on our organization. In envisaging ISO’s role over the next decade, we have identified four primary drivers of change as the areas where we see International Standards having the most impact and relevance in the world – the economy, technology, society and the environment.

These drivers are all strongly interlinked and large-scale disruption or crises may affect multiple drivers at once. Change presents both risks and opportunities. Understanding how it occurs by monitoring these four drivers will enable us to anticipate and respond to their potential transformative impact on the ISO system in order to ensure our relevance in a shifting global context.


Trade and uncertainty

The evolution of the international trading system and its impacts on the global economy are uncertain. While new technologies (such as artificial intelligence or internet of things) will significantly affect the type of trade and quality of economic growth, concerns for sustainability will drive the expansion of circularity and new business models like the sharing economy. As the concepts of globalization and multilateralism are increasingly challenged, trends towards the regionalization of trade and the localization of production are becoming more apparent.

Nevertheless, the interdependence of global supply chains remains strong and essential. This complex situation makes it difficult for organizations to predict their long-term development. Not only must they contend with possible disruptions to everything from their production methods to their business models and their access to global markets, but they must also factor in growing pressure to prioritize ethics and values, and the Sustainable Development Goals in particular, in their trade and commerce-related decisions. Changes resulting from economic and trade uncertainty may affect the demand for, and relevance of, International Standards.


The impact of accelerating technological progress

The speed of technological change (and especially the growth of digital technologies) is rapidly disrupting the way consumers, businesses and industries operate around the world. Advancements in artificial intelligence, cyber-physical systems, quantum and other technologies are helping organizations boost efficiency and productivity, create competitive advantage and promote innovation. But they can also bring important ethical and security-related challenges, not to mention risks of (intentional or accidental) misuse.

For this reason, it is important to analyse which technologies have real value and relevance (not least from a social perspective), where regulation and good governance is needed, and where investments should be made. International Standards can help society and businesses make the most of emerging technologies and foster their spread in a sustainable and responsible way. ISO must also harness the power of new technologies to improve its own value chain and agility, including its technical community and global network of members.


Changing needs and expectations

Shifts in demographics and populations are occurring alongside the impacts of climate change and new technologies, creating the potential for more societal disruptions. In a context of growing connectivity and access to information, public and civil society actors (including the younger generation) want higher levels of transparency and collaboration to build much-needed societal trust. They expect their concerns and requests to be heard and addressed. They also expect individual needs to be respected and are increasingly concerned that security should not come at the expense of privacy.

To remain relevant, organizations must be able to anticipate and respond to these evolving societal needs – they must become more inclusive, more accountable, more transparent, and better integrate stakeholders in their decision-making processes, including by listening to feedback and stakeholder expectations. For ISO, this presents a challenge to the current standards development process and its resulting deliverables, providing an impetus for faster, more inclusive development and more user-centric products.



The urgent need for action

Healthy ecosystems are fundamental to our most basic needs, yet the world faces major threats to the environment if it fails to adequately and urgently address the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution. The scientific evidence is clear and compelling: long-term but significant environmental changes (like natural resource depletion and desertification) combined with more frequent sudden-onset events (such as floods or heat waves) will cause serious disruptions to lives and livelihoods.

These interdependent issues are changing the context in which we operate, cut across national borders and cannot be solved by one individual, company or government alone. International cooperation is required in order to ensure a just transition and safeguard our planet for future generations. ISO has a key role to play here as International Standards can be important tools to support policy initiatives and promote the development and scaling-up of global solutions (such as circular economy, protection of biosphere/biodiversity, and renewable, low-carbon and environmentally sustainable energy sources, among others).

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The ISO Strategy 2030 outlines our vision and our mission for the next 10 years and a set of goals and priorities to help us get there. The three goals are stepping stones to our vision. We will focus on six priorities to achieve our goals and maximize our impact.


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