Guide

Make best use of standards

What is a standard?

Standards are an accepted measure of the reliability of materials, products, methods and services people use every day. They can also:

  • ensure product functionality and compatibility
  • facilitate interoperability
  • support consumer safety and public health

Standards establish protocols that any business can easily understand and adopt in their product development. You can use standards across a wide range of business, industry and technology.

Types of standards for business

There are two main types of standards:

  • technical standards - these are made up of technical specifications or other precise criteria that set quality benchmarks for products, manufacturing processes and services
  • management system standards - these provide a framework for businesses to manage their business processes and activities - see quality management standards

Are standards a legal requirement?

No - standards are voluntary. But you may need to meet certain standards to comply with particular industry or legal requirements. For example, motorcycle helmets must conform to certain standards before you can offer them for sale in the UK. You're free to find another way to fulfil your legal obligations - but meeting a standard is normally the best way of doing this.

Compliance with standards may also help you compete for contracts from larger businesses or government departments. Many have strict criteria that they expect their suppliers to meet. In some instances, customers may insist that you comply with a standard before they feel comfortable purchasing your products or services.

Find out more about the business benefits of standards.

Who develops standards?

There are many national standards bodies throughout the world. As the UK's national standards body, the British Standards Institution works closely with businesses, government, consumer and other groups to ensure that they get the standards that they need.