The Standards Council of Canada (SCC) is having quite the busy month this October, recently having celebrated World Standards Day on October 12th (while the rest of the world celebrates it on October 14th, the day of my writing this article). The aim of this annual bash is to recognize the importance of standards systems – highly crucial in areas of environmental, social, and corporate governance – and also to thank the countless number of folks who contribute in the development and implementation of standards systems worldwide.
I touched upon the significance of standards systems a few months back, when I discussed the organizational profile of the ISEAL (International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labeling) Alliance, a non-profit organization which seeks to establish standards for sustainability management in areas of forestry, organic agriculture, marine life, and social accountability. While ISEAL is a non-profit group, the Standards Council of Canada is actually a federal Crown Corporation, with a “mandate to promote efficient and effective standardization in Canada” through its reporting to Parliament via the Minister of Industry. On the same token, the SCC “manages Canadian participation in the standards development initiatives of the ISO (International Standards Organization) and the IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission).”
The SCC is a highly compartmentalized and technically specialized organization, with various organs of strategic and operational support to assist in the adoption and implementation of standards across Canada. Among these important bodies, the Advisory Panel on Standards is designed to assist with the planning and policy efforts vis-à-vis standards issues while acting as a check-and-balance that ensures the neutrality of the SCC’s adoption and implementation of standards. Next, the CNC/IEC (the Canadian National Committee of the International Electrotechnical Commission) acts as a bridge across which policy advice and developments in standards are channeled to the SCC with regards to happenings at the IEC. Finally, the Consumer and Public Interest Panel (CPIP) offers consultation to the SCC on matters relating to standards systems and policies where consumers and the public interest are concerned.
Stakeholder participation is crucial for the SCC, and it is achieved through the participation of a diverse and extensive network of “people and organizations involved in the development, promotion, and implementation of standards.” Perhaps most important in verifying the applicability and testing the compliance of new standards, are the people and organizations who make up the ‘conformity assessment bodies’ of the SCC. Chief amongst these are:
- Calibration laboratories which examine “the accuracy of measuring instruments and reference standards for areas of meteorology”
- Inspection bodies which assess “the safety and fitness for use of specific products and materials”
- Management systems certification bodies, which “demonstrate that an organization has met the international standard for management system certification bodies and is able to competently assess and certify management systems”
- Personnel certifiers that “assess and publically recognize the credibility, impartiality, and technical competence of an organization’s personnel certification services”
- Product process and service certification bodies which prove that the work of certification bodies is “in line with the most up-to-date national and international standards and regulations”
- Greenhouse gas verification and validation bodies that “assess the competency of organizations conducting validation or verification activities for both greenhouse gas emission reduction projects and greenhouse gas inventories”
The development of standards is a complex and often drawn-out process that requires cutting through red tape and in the case of the SCC, currying parliamentary favour through reporting and oversight, in order to actively contribute to the creation, adoption, and implementation of standards here in Canada. The development of standards is born out of the necessity to address the technical considerations of organizations and individuals across the vast national stratum of government, industry, academia, and the public at large, particularly where corporate governance matters are concerned. These groups form committees to address issues of importance to them, and it is through these committees that standards are proposed, which are eventually sent to the SCC for testing, adoption, and implementation.
Because of the absolute necessity of standards development and implementation, a number of events aside from World Standards Day are hosted by the Standards Council of Canada in order to engage the public vis-à-vis standards systems (an issue which many Canadians are unfamiliar with). I invite you to read the minutes of the SCC 2012 Annual Public Meeting when they become available here, and I further suggest for readers to familiarize themselves with the annual SmartGrid Canada Conference which is hosted by the SCC at the MaRS Discovery District in Toronto, discussing the “impact of human interaction with the Canadian smart grid landscape” and other vital issues that are of interest to all Canadian energy consumers.