How are standards drafted

Standards are the result of a consensus-building process involving different interests and stakeholders. Understand the process for the development of standards and how to get involved.
How Are Standards Drafted

CEN, CENELEC, ISO and IEC are standards developing organisations made up of National Standards Bodies (NSBs). The development of standards in these organisations is based on the national delegation principle.  Standards are developed in European or international Technical Committees (TCs), to which each NSB sends a delegation of experts to represent their national standpoint. This standpoint is discussed and defined in “National Mirror Committees” reflecting the European or International TC and gathering all interested parties (businesses, consumers, public authorities, NGOs, etc.) at the national level. This gives stakeholders the opportunity to deliberate and work together in their national language, which is an advantage for SMEs.

ETSI and ITU do not operate based on the national delegation principle but of direct stakeholder participation (without NSBs or other intermediaries). The standardisation work done by these two organisations is carried out in committees and study groups composed of technical experts from the member companies and organisations.

Developing a European Standard

The development of a standard normally follows the following steps:



Any interested party can introduce a proposal for new work

Drafting of the standard

If accepted the relevant Technical Committee (TC) decides on a schedule for the development of the standard and draws up the content (often within a Working Group-WG). National Standards Bodies or Member Organisations (depending on the Standards Body) nominate experts to contribute to the drafting of the standard.

Public Enquiry

Once the draft standard is mature enough it is released for public commenting. During the Enquiry anyone having an interest may comment on the draft standard. The comments are collected and sent to the relevant TC.

Preparation of the final draft standard

The TC prepares a final version of the standard taking into account the comments received during the Enquiry

Final vote

The standard is then submitted to a final vote and if approved it is then published


The standard is then published by the relevant standards organisation. In the case of European Standards (ENs) once approved National Standards Bodies adopt the standard as a national standard and have the obligation to withdraw any conflicting national standard.


To ensure that a standard is still current, it is reviewed at least within five years from its publication. This review results in the confirmation, modification, revision or withdrawal of the standard.
Standardisation develops other kinds of documents than standards, e.g. technical specifications or technical reports, publicly available Specifications (PAS). In these cases, a public enquiry does not always take place and the approval procedure may be different.

How to get involved

The participation of SMEs in standardisation is important to ensure that they influence the process and the standards developed meet their needs and support their growth. There are several ways to take part in the standardisation process:

  • Contact your national standards body to participate in national committees and contribute to the development of national, European (CEN, CENELEC) and international (ISO, IEC) standards. In some cases, participation in the national committee may require the payment of a fee. To get involved in the drafting of ETSI or ITU standards, SMEs need to become members and pay the requested fee.
  • Submit comments during the public enquiry period. During this period, the National Standards Bodies (NSBs) launch a consultation at national level to gather input from stakeholders. Many NSBs have free online portals where stakeholders can view the drafts under consultation and submit comments, even if they are not members of the relevant national committee.
  • Participate in consultations through your national or European SME association. In many cases, SMEs agree to send an expert from an association to represent their common interests in national, European or international technical committees. You can also encourage your SME association to become a SBS member (if that is not the case already)
  • Become a SBS expert. SBS publishes an open call every year, to select experts to represent the interests of SMEs in European and international standardisation work. You may also participate in the activities of SBS through its member associations.
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.