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There are many different ISO Standards out there, sometimes it can be hard to understand which ones are the most suitable for your business. While some are industry-specific, many of the most popular standards are generic and can be implemented into an organization no matter what sector it is in. If you are not certified to any ISO standards and are interested in a certification, or want to add more, we have outlined the ten most popular standards below. Read on to learn about their history, what they entail, and their impact on the businesses that employ them.

ISO 9001

By far the most popular family is that of ISO 9000. A family of quality management standards, there are fourteen in total. Of these, ISO 9001:2015 is the only one that can be certified to. It was first published in 1987, and has since been updated about every 7 years. The standard details how to put a Quality Management System (QMS) in place to better prepare your organization to produce quality products and services. It is customer focused, and places an emphasis on continuous improvement and top management processes that extended throughout the organization.

ISO 14001

ISO 14000 is a family of standards relating to the environment. It includes multiple standards, similar to ISO 9000. ISO 14001:2015 is the most popular in the family, and is the only one in which an organization can be certified.

ISO 27000

This family of standards concerns information technology, with the goal of improving security and protecting company assets. Started in 2005, the two most popular standards are ISO 27001:2013 and 27002:2013. 27001 is management-based system, whereas 27002 is a technical document, focused on the individual and putting a code of conduct in place.

ISO 22000

This standard is focused on the development and implementation of a food safety management system, and can help any organization that works in the food chain. With multiple standards including 22001 for food and drink, 22002 for food manufacturing, and more, this family is used in a variety of organizations directly or indirectly involved with food. These include obvious choices such as restaurants of any kind, and also companies such as food manufacturers or even food transportation services such as caterers.

ISO 50001

One of the newest standards, the energy standard ISO 50001:2011 is nevertheless becoming increasingly important. Released in 2011, the standard is meant for companies to put in place an Energy Management System (EMS) dedicated to improving energy usage and efficiency. This includes reducing an organization’s energy footprint by reducing greenhouse gas emissions as well as energy cost.

ISO/TS 16949

One of the older standards, ISO/TS 16949 refers to the automotive industry. TS stands for Technical Specification. Prior to the standard, suppliers were asked by car manufacturers to standardize to the regulations of each individual country, which often led to suppliers needing multiple certifications for the same vehicle.

ISO 13485

The medical equipment standard ISO 13485 is a single document and does not belong to a family like many of the ISO standards. Published in 2003, with one revision published in 2016. It puts a QMS in place for the production of medical devices and equipment, and is very specific to the health industry.

ISO 31000

It is very important for an organization in any field to be able to manage risk effectively. ISO 31000:2009 puts in place a risk-management system to do just that. It was created in 2009 as an attempt to create a universally recognized program to reduce risk, eliminating the need for the many standards in other industries that include risk. The standard allows a company to better identify threats before they occur, and effectively allocate and use resources for risk treatment.

ISO 26000

A relatively new standard, ISO 26000 focuses on social responsibility and was released in 2010. It cannot be certified to, but rather provides guidance on how businesses can operate in a socially responsible way. It helps clarify what social responsibility is, and helps organizations put in place the methodology to take effective actions relating to global social responsibility. The certification is used in over 60 countries.

ISO 20121

The newest standard on this list, ISO 20121 was started in 2012. It came about due to overwhelming support of BS 8901, an event sustainability standard put in place with support from the Head of Sustainability at the London 2012 Olympics. It is a voluntary event sustainability management system.


There are ISO standards for just about every sector in business, and even can be applied to non-business organizations. These standards are being revised constantly to account for the changes in our environment, technology, social attitude, and legislation.

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