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More organizations are looking to upscale their business and benefit from the implementation of international standards. To determine the factors that play an important role in the growth of an organization we must determine the disruptive forces that affect the organization’s growth directly or indirectly. There are four major trends which ISO deemed crucial disruptive factors for organizations and their interested parties, which were highlighted by the ISO General Assembly:

  • Economic and trade uncertainty
  • Changing societal expectations
  • The impact of climate change
  • The digital transformation

In this article, we will shed light on each of the above points which were discussed during ISO Week 2019 held in Cape Town, South Africa on 16-20 September 2019.

Jodi Sholtz, Group Chief Operation Officer, from the South African Department of Trade and Industry, said, “Without appropriate standards, it will be impossible to address multiple challenges at a global and national level. Standardization provides the tools to achieve sustainable development, to counter the immediate threat posed by climate change and, amongst other things, secure gender equality and optimal health.”


Today, organizations develop international influence and operate on a global scale which helps bring economic growth but also brings about trade uncertainty. To combat uncertainty, inclusive economic growth is essential through standardization and the use of internationally recognized standards to minimize the growing inequality, economic concentration and marginalization of many developing countries. 

As ISO President John Walter explained, “The economy is obviously one of the most important drivers of change and there is an unquestionable role for us to play in restoring faith in the values of free trade and multilateralism.”


New models like the “sharing economy” bring new challenges for regulators and policymakers who must adapt and problem solve through standardization.

Standards are crucial in a sharing economy because of the disruptive nature of these evolutions. As with any other changing factor, adaptation is key to many problems.

“Those who stand to lose in the sharing economy are traditional industries that refuse to adapt and those using conventional business models that refuse to evolve,” said Tarryn Daniels from the Consumer Goods Council of South Africa.


Climate change is affecting every aspect of human life globally, and its impact on trade may affect your business. Unpredictable weather will greatly impact industries throughout the world.

“International trade depends critically on well-functioning transport links. Environmental challenges such as extreme storms, floods, changes in temperature, humidity or precipitation and rising sea levels will have significant impacts on transportation infrastructure such as ports,” according to Regina Asariotis of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). Better risk assessment and preparation will help ensure successful adaptation to climate change.


Speakers looked at what the rapid evolution and adoption of digital technologies could mean for businesses and society. For example, what does digital transformation mean for businesses? How are digital technologies changing what and how we trade? And how are digital technologies driving entrepreneurial growth and innovation? Technology brings about many positive changes from providing efficiency and accuracy to facilitating speed and ease. Life without digital interference seems to be unfeasible now. The rapid evolution and adoption of digital technologies is more vital now than ever before for organizations who wish to stay relevant and efficient in their industry.


The objective of the ISO General Assembly is to develop International Standards in response to market needs. Innovation is not just about change or a few bright ideas; it’s about filling the void between old and new, it’s about finding solutions to the problems that have already arisen and that have yet to come through mindful analysis, and it’s about addressing crises internationally and providing improved solutions through standardization. Together, these four trends – economic and trade uncertainty, changing societal expectations, the urgency for sustainability, and digital transformation – make up the disruptive forces that will shape the direction of ISO’s future strategy on the path to 2030. As a first step, ISO is developing a new series of International Standards on innovation management. Stay tuned to ISO Update to learn more about new and updated standards as they are released.


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