About Standards

Standards are everywhere and cover many topics, products and services. From quality management systems and tattooing services to screw head sizes or safety of childcare articles or machinery.
About Standards
A standard is an accepted and agreed-upon way of doing something. It is a document providing requirements, specifications, guidelines, or characteristics that can be used to ensure that materials, products, services and processes are fit for purpose. Standards are voluntary, but they can become mandatory when regulators decide to adopt them as legal requirements (e.g. by directly including their reference in law) or when they become part of a contractual agreement between parties. There are different types of standards:
  • Terminology standards: provide common terms and definitions in a specific field.
  • Product standards: specify requirements or characteristics of a product related to safety, security, quality, size,…
  • Test standards: describe and specify the requirements of specific test methods to ensure testing is made in a uniform and consistent basis.
  • Service standards: specify requirements in relation to the provision of a specific service.
  • Process and management system standards: establish criteria, define processes and requirements for specific with the aim of ensuring a specific objective, e.g. ensure quality, health and safety or that energy is managed in an efficient way.
Standards can be developed by national, regional (e.g. European) and international standards developing organisations. The work of SBS focuses on European and international standardisation.
  • European Standards (EN) are documents developed by one of the three European Standards Organisations (CEN, CENELEC or ETSI). They result from a consensual process involving different stakeholders such as industry, SMEs, consumers, researchers or environmental interests. Upon adoption, ENs are implemented as national standards and any conflicting national standard must be withdrawn, thus ensuring uniform technical specifications across the EU (and beyond).
  • Harmonised Standards (hENs) are European standards developed at the request of the European Commission to support the implementation of European Union (EU) legislation. Once the references of hENs are published in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU), they provide presumption of conformity with the corresponding essential requirements of European legislation. Each hEN includes an annex explaining its relationship with the requirements of EU Regulations or Directives.
  • International standards are documents established by one of the international Standards Organisations (ISO, IEC or ITU). They serve to promote consistency, quality, safety, and interoperability on a global scale across products, services, and processes. Contrary to ENs, there is no obligation for National Standards Organisations to adopt international standards as national standards.

standardisation Bodies on European level are:


European Committee for standardisation


European Committee for Electrotechnical standardisation


European Telecommunications Standards Institute

On international level, the most important standardisation bodies are ISO (International Organisation for standardisation)and IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission).

Learn more about standardisation bodies

What is a Standard

They are strategic tools that reduce costs by minimising waste and errors in order to increase productivity. They ease companies to access new markets, level the playing field for developing countries and facilitate free and fair global trade. A standard consists of a technical specification or other precise criteria designed to be used as a rule or guideline that can be considered as a summary of best practice. 

Their creation derives from the experience of all interested parties who represent the meeting between the demands of society and technology harmoniously coordinated by standardisation Bodies.

European Standards

European Standards (ENs) are documents that have been ratified by one of the three European Standards Organisations (CEN, CENELEC or ETSI). They are the result of a consensual process between the actors involved in their development. CEN, CENELEC and ETSI alone produce more than 2000 standards per year. In addition, the regular reviews of standards which further increase the knowledge and proper implementation of existing standards. 

European Standards must be transposed into a national standard in all member countries which must also withdraw any conflicting national standard: the EN prevails over any national standard. This ensures the manufacturers an easier access to the market of all European countries.

Harmonised Standards

A harmonised standard is a European standard, drafted and adopted by one of the European standardisation Organisations, following a mandate issued by the European Commission after consultation of Member States. Compliance with harmonised standards, of which the reference numbers have been published in the Official Journal and which have been transposed into national standards, provides “presumption of conformity” to the corresponding essential requirements of the European directives.

Why are standards important?

standardisation is an important instrument for the European internal market policy. It is a way to strengthen innovation in promoting competitiveness. In this context, SMEs have an important role to play since they represent 99,8% of the European companies.

The application of standards ensures SMEs decisive advantages such as:

enlarging the potential market for products,

facilitating product compliance

lowering transaction costs

achieving economies of scale

reducing external effects (like environmental impact)

Improving compatibility and interoperability and simplifying product development, and speeding time-to-market.

improving management systems

SMEs Representation in Drafting Standards

A Technical Committee (TC) is a group responsible for development and drafting of standards which are then ratified by European Standards Organisations. All stakeholders interested in the draft standard are entitled to participate, but only representatives of National standardisation Bodies have the right to vote in the Technical Committee. 

Committees comprise experts who are familiar with the area being studied. They provide input and feedback based on their professional knowledge and experience.

One of SBS’ most important activities is its direct participation in the standardisation process through CEN, CENELEC, ETSI and ISO Technical Committees (TCs). SBS carries out this task by appointing experts – nominated by its member SME organisations – to attend the committee meetings and report back to their SBS coordinator. Indeed, this enables SBS to closely monitor development of new directives, directive reviews and standardisation work in general to then lobby towards the European Institutions and further encourage them to take SMEs into account.

Legal Framework

The Regulation (EU) No 1025/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council on European standardisation is the legal basis of the European standardisation system for products and services.It provides support to European legislation and policies. This text aims to develop standards more quickly; ensure better representation of stakeholders, including SMEs, while respecting the principle of national delegation where applicable; make possible the development of harmonized European standards in the field of services (within a given mandate by the European Commission); and identify the technical specifications developed by fora and consortia may be mentioned in public procurement in the EU. 

The Regulation sets obligations to European standardisation Organisations (CEN, CENELEC and ETSI) and National standardisation Bodies on transparency of standardisation processes and on stakeholder participation in European and national standardisation activities. It establishes a new framework of interest representation in European standardisation, which should be equal, proportionate and encourage SME participation. In order to represent SME interests in the standard making process and to always remain up-to-date on the latest developments, SBS therefore believes it is fundamental to establish a solid cooperation with all standardisation Organisations.

At European level, SBS is a member of ETSI since its creation. Moreover, CEN-CENELEC carried out a revision of their partnership models with representatives of civil society and industry, enabling SBS to sign a partnership agreement with CEN-CENELEC.

Views and opinions expressed are those of Small Business Standards (SBS) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or EFTA. Neither the European Union nor EFTA can be held responsible for them.