Friday, September 11, 2009

Thinking about Standards

The Weerribben-Wieden, a domain conserved by Staatsbosbeheer has been certified as a place where sustainable tourism in a nature preservation is practiced. I am happy for Staatsbosbeheer, this is recognition indeed.

It got me thinking about standards and certifications. This is a reward given because Staatsbosbeheer complies with a European standard that formulates a set of requirements. It has obvious value because it indicates to tourists that they can enjoy nature and come back to find that nature will still be there.

As this certification is valuable to Staatsbosbeheer, it might be asked to pay for the certification because certification involves the verification of the practice to the standard. It could be an European organisation that pays because it wants to stimulate compliance with the standard.

Defining a standard, complying with a standard and assessing the compliance of a standard is expensive and, the claim of compliance raises expectations. It is important that a standard can be trusted because when a standard is proven to be a sham, it reduces the trust in other standards.

A standard makes sense when it adds value or when it stimulates a best practice. Standards are considered to be "business oriented" and consequently it is an accepted practice that the consumer is to pay. It is not only businesses who make use of standards and as I for instance am not willing to pay for the text or the certification of a standard, I will largely ignore standards because the details are outside of my reach.

When the practices of a standard body prevent the adoption of standards, you have a worst case scenario. Standard bodies are aware of this but they have been directed by their governments in this way.

What would be a way out of this dilemma ??
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