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What Does ISO Mean?

Last updated 06/21/2022 by

Justin Smith

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ISO stands for the International Organization for Standardization, which is an independent international organization that develops various sets of standards to ensure quality, safety, and efficiency. ISO certification ensures that a product, service, or system meets all the organization’s standards of quality assurance. Being ISO certified can help a business acquire new customers, as it demonstrates to conscious consumers the business’s commitment to high standards of quality.
In the global marketplace, a universal group of standards of quality can be invaluable to prospective customers seeking products and services to meet their needs. Consumers want to be assured that their money is being exchanged for the highest possible quality.
The International Organization for Standardization was introduced to fill this need. Since its foundation in 1947, ISO certification has become standard across a range of industries, ensuring that products, services, and systems adhere to high standards of quality, safety, and efficiency. An ISO certification can help a business demonstrate its commitment to quality and safety standards, thus helping to bring in new business from customers looking for the best products and services on the market.

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What does ISO mean, and what does the ISO stand for?

ISO stands for the International Organization for Standardization, also known in French as the Organisation internationale de normalisation. The ISO is an independent and non-governmental organization whose purpose is to develop a variety of standards for quality, safety, and efficiency. According to the organization’s about page, the name ISO is derived from the Greek word isos, meaning equal.
The ISO originated in 1946 when a group of 25 countries came together after World War II to discuss the future of international standardization. The organization was officially founded in 1947 and now consists of over 160 member countries. The countries included in the ISO are represented by national standards bodies, one for each country, and today there are more than 800 ISO technical committees and over 24,000 international standards across a variety of industries.

Pro Tip

New standards are voted on by each ISO member before they are incorporated into the organization. Staying on top of these will ensure your business always meets international standards of quality.

What it means to be ISO certified

In essence, ISO certification is an official seal of approval, proof that a management system, manufacturing process, service, or other documentation procedure has met all the requirements for standardization and quality assurance. ISO certification is the standard across multiple different types of industries, including construction, manufacturing, hospitality, health, and technology.
Note that only businesses and organizations can be ISO certified. The certification is not available to individuals.

Why it’s worth being ISO certified

Being ISO certified means your business has been audited by an independent third-party organization. This is important because it shows your business conforms to the latest quality standards that have been set by the ISO.
Certification by an international standards organization can help prove your business’s dedication to quality. You can include your business’s ISO certification in your marketing to show potential customers that your products or services are safe, effective, and of high quality.

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Different types of ISO certification

Businesses across a variety of industries can be ISO certified. The standards for which your business can be certified will typically depend on the industry you’re in, but some standards are designed to be generic and universal.
For example, ISO 9001:2015 is an international standard for quality management systems intended to apply to any type of organization. The number 9001 designates its place in the quality management family of certifications, while the number 2015 is the calendar year in which that standard was published.
Conversely, a more specific example of certification is the ISO film speed standard in photography, where the ISO number indicates the camera’s film speed, or the sensitivity of the given film emulsion to light.

How to get your business ISO certified

It’s worth noting here that the ISO does not perform certification, per se. Rather, the ISO develops the standards for which businesses are certified by external certification bodies. The process of becoming ISO certified can cost businesses a lot of time and money, but as noted above, the effort is often worthwhile in the end.
Here are the steps you should follow to have your business ISO certified:

Perform a cost-benefit analysis

It is important for business owners to determine the need for certification before seeking one. Not only can the ISO certification process itself be costly, but your business will also have to spend money to keep up with ISO standards in the long term.
Further, you should also determine how much business you stand to gain from being ISO certified. If you don’t think you will gain many customers from the certification, it might not be worth pursuing.

Develop and implement your management system

Developing and implementing your management system can help all your employees get on the same page with regard to the standards you are trying to set before seeking ISO certification. Creating reporting systems that cover all aspects of the production process will hold everyone accountable.
Once you have your management system in place, you can review your business’s production process and begin implementing changes where they are needed.

Verify the effectiveness of your management system

Conduct an audit of your management system to identify any weak spots or areas where performance could be improved. Taking corrective action early can help get your business on the right track before you attempt to gain ISO certification.

Register your management system

Once everything is in place, you can register your management system and begin the process of seeking ISO certification. Search for the appropriate certification body and submit your management system documentation.
In the interim, you can prepare for the external auditor’s review by ensuring your business continues to run smoothly according to ISO standards.


Is being ISO certified good?

Yes, being ISO certified can be good for your business. An ISO certification can help bring in new business and show your customers that you’re committed to standards of quality, safety, and efficiency.
For example, being ISO 9001 certified means your business has high standards for its quality control processes. Standardization helps employees stay on the same page and optimizes overall performance.

Are there any reasons my business shouldn’t be ISO certified?

The main reason not to consider getting ISO certified is the cost associated with the certification process. In the short term, preparing for an ISO certification takes time, money, and resources away from other parts of your business. Additionally, an ISO audit might impose additional regulations and obligations for your business.

Who requires ISO certification?

ISO certification is not required by any governing body or legal office. However, being ISO certified can greatly benefit your business. Standards of quality are valued by consumers, and in some industries, potential customers may actively avoid businesses that are not ISO certified.

Are there other ISO meanings?

While the most common definition of ISO refers to the international standards organization, there are other uses of the term ISO that can be useful to know.
An ISO file, also called an ISO image, is an archive file that contains an identical copy of data from an optical disk, such as a CD or DVD. ISO files are commonly used for distributing large programs and operating systems, as data can be distilled into a single, easily downloadable digital file. An ISO file can also be used to create a backup for an optical disk image file.

Key Takeaways

  • The abbreviation ISO stands for the International Organization for Standardization, an independent international organization that develops standards to ensure the quality, safety, and efficiency of various products, services, and systems.
  • An ISO certification proves that a product or service has met the organization’s high standards of quality assurance.
  • Getting ISO certified costs time and money, but it is usually worthwhile because it demonstrates your business conforms to the latest quality standards set by the ISO.
  • To become ISO certified, you need to implement your management system into your business and verify its effectiveness, then register it with the appropriate certification body.
  • ISO certification is not legally required, but it is recommended to help draw quality-conscious customers to your business.
Are you in need of financing to help you cover ISO certification for your business? Start by reading our guide on how to finance a business, or use our tools to compare business loans and business lines of credit.

SuperMoney may receive compensation from some or all of the companies featured, and the order of results are influenced by advertising bids, with exception for mortgage and home lending related products. Learn more

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