Today, on 14 October, we celebrate World Standards Day (WSD) – an opportunity to reflect on the important role that standards play in shaping the common rules, formats, formulas and test methods that manage our world.
This year’s WSD comes at a moment when standardisers worldwide are acknowledging the importance of environmental and societal considerations in standard-setting.
On 24 September, 165 ISO members signed the London Declaration committing to embed climate considerations into all standards . This step could even be compared to a ‘Paris Agreement’ for standardisation.
In parallel, the European Commission is developing the EU Standardisation Strategy. It is a unique opportunity for the bloc to help democratise the international process and make sure that standards effectively support climate objectives. In a recent foresight report , the Commission identified standardisation as a key area to boost the EU’s autonomy and its influence worldwide.
On the occasion of World Standards Day, ECOS calls on all actors involved in standardisation to actively contribute to making the standardisation system more inclusive of civil society organisations. When standards have an impact on areas of public interest, such as environmental protection, all those concerned and affected by them should be actively involved in their development. These views have been outlined in detail in a recent paper by ECOS, focusing on the future of standardisation. 
Some standardisation organisations are now committing to open up. ISO, for example, has recently committed to ‘facilitate the involvement of society’ in its London Declaration.
Standards that work to deliver the SDGs
This year’s official celebrations highlight the link between standards and the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to which standards can and should contribute. 
ECOS believes that standards are essential tools to prevent a climate breakdown and realise the SDGs – provided that they underpin climate policies and legislation, and enable the uptake of environmental technologies. That is why our members and experts have been advocating for environmentally ambitious standards for more than 20 years.
Justin Wilkes, Executive Director, ECOS – Environmental Coalition on Standards, said:
‘Developed in an inclusive way, environmentally sound standards can help make the vision we share for a better future happen, and motivate social, economic and environmental progress – exactly what the SDGs were designed to do’.
Background: How can standards contribute to SDGs?
Standards provide a shared language and powerful tools that can translate global principles into action. The devil is in the detail: if the environment is ignored in their development, the planet – and its people – will face negative, and sometimes dangerous, consequences.
For example, robust definitions for common bottles and containers are essential for laws to make sure that reusable containers become the new normal. This is linked to SDG 12, sustainable production and consumption.
A second case: Cooling appliances such as air conditioners and fridges use HFCs – greenhouse gases that are thousands of times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Standards could help open the market to much less polluting, natural alternatives. This is linked to SDG 13 – climate action.