ISO is an international organisation formed by the national standards institutes. At present there are 146 countries and operating basis is one member per country. The Central Secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland who manages the system.
Some ISO members are part of their countries’ governmental structure. Other members are based in the private sector, since they were created by national industrial associations.
ISO is an international organisation but does not represent governments. It can therefore act as a linking organisation by developing a consensus which fulfil the business requirements and society’s needs.
Since “International Organisation for Standardisation” would be abbreviated differently in different languages (in English “IOS”, in French “OIN” for Organisation internationale de normalisation), from the beginning, it was agreed to use a word based on the Greek isos, meaning “equal”. Therefore, worldwide and in whatever the language, the abbreviation for the organisation is always ISO.
International standardisation started in the electro-technical field: in 1906, the IEC (International Electro-technical Commission) was created. Other important early work in other fields was done by the ISA (International Federation of the National Standardising Associations) which was established in 1926. ISA’s activities ended in 1942.
In London in 1946, representatives from 25 countries agreed to establish a new international organisation. Its object would be “to facilitate the international coordination and unification of industrial standards”. The new organisation, ISO, officially started on 23 February 1947.