At a glance:

  • BSI = Standards in the UK
  • EN = Standards in Europe
  • ISO = International standards (mechanics)
  • IEC = International standards (electrical and electrical engineering)

Every European country has its own standards. In the UK, this is the BSI standard. BSI stands for “British Standards Institution”, which defines the criteria for the respective standard. Proven experts in their respective fields develop rules based on the latest technology and from an economic point of view, which then ideally apply to all products and solutions. 

However, standards are not generally mandatory. That means they can be applied, but they don't have to be unless it is stipulated by the contract. However, this is happening more and more frequently — and it can’t hurt to comply with BSI standards too. After all, they guarantee reliability and create consumer trust. Today, there are more than 33,000 BSI standards. New standards are now adopted directly at European level. And here we come to the abbreviation EN.

The EN standard: Standards at European level

In the EU, the broad aim is now to standardise national standards. Standards that are adopted at European level are marked with the abbreviation EN. National standards, such as Germany’s DIN standard, also receive a corresponding designation. A DIN-EN standard therefore means that an originally German standard will appear as European in the future. In terms of content, this usually makes no difference. An EN standard is adopted by a committee consisting of three European committees. 

The point at which an EN standard is included in the standardisation catalogue is decided as part of a standardised process. In principle, any member of a European standardisation organisation can propose the standard. Alongside the DIN standard, the EN standard has prevailed in Germany for a large number of existing standards. Numerous standards therefore have the designation DIN-EN, and they are often also ISO standardised.

ISO and IEC: International standards

ISO stands for “International Organization for Standardization” and therefore refers to international standards. The organisation was founded in 1946 to set industry standards and to simplify technical rules and make them internationally comparable. ISO standards are primarily mechanical in nature. ISO standards can also stand alone or be listed as originally European or national standards with the ISO addition. In practice, this simply means that a German DIN standard, for example, meets international requirements. 

For topics related to electrics and electronics, the IEC standards of the “International Electrotechnical Commission” have prevailed.

What is the importance of standards anyway?

BSI, ISO, IEC, EN: You now know what is behind the abbreviations. But why should you rely on one of these standards in the first place, whether it’s for your products or for standard-compliant certification of services or environmental management? After all, certification with DIN-EN-ISO 14001, for example, which proves a standardised environmental management system, also costs money, including internal costs for implementing environmental management systems in the company and external ones for the audit. Compliance with ISO is certified by an auditor. This certificate is valid for three years, followed by a recertification audit.

Standards increase quality and safety

However, standards also offer enormous benefits. Companies that apply or help shape standards benefit from smooth work processes, high quality performance and safe operations. All of this ultimately saves money and helps customers gain trust — which in turn increases revenue. 

International standards: speaking one language

At the international level, standards act like a common language which international trading partners use to agree on products, solutions, and how to make processes comparable across national borders. If your business partner uses standards, its operations become transparent and you can assess whether it and its suppliers comply with environmental regulations or safety standards, for example.

Standardisation as a driver of innovation

Last but not least, standards are a tool for technical progress: certifying new developments can help to position them sustainably on the market. Standardisation, for example, reveals compatibility with other solutions and products and helps demonstrate uniform measurement methods. This in turn creates trust — and this is crucial for success in the market.

However, small and medium-sized companies in particular often find it difficult to keep pace with the jungle of BSI, EN and ISO standards, let alone participate in standardisation work themselves. Everyone can contribute to setting up new standards: manufacturers, consumers, universities and research institutions can provide experts who agree to new standards with the committee and check existing standards for their expertise. More information on standardisation work for SMEs is available from the BSI.

Conclusion: Making products comparable and setting standards

British, European and international standards are vital for the comparison of products, solutions and services. Whether they are BSI, EN, or ISO certified is less important. Beyond this: national standards are now increasingly being made internationally comparable. It is no longer possible to operate without standards: they create trust, make products comparable and serve as an international language among trading partners.

  • BSI denotes an originally British standard, EN a European, ISO an international
  • Standards help to make products and solutions comparable and are also a driver of innovation
  • Compliance with standards creates trust and therefore helps to drive sales