The ISO Prize was set up to recognise individuals who promote the use and understanding of ISO standards. However, the new award has a unique characteristic that sets it apart: It is designed specifically for people who don't work in ISO, a member body or a technical committee.
The idea was suggested by ISO past-President Boris Aleshin, as a way to say thank you to the individuals who help promote the use of standards, but who do not always get the recognition they deserve.
As Aleshin explained when he presented the prize, "During my time as your President, in 2011 and 2012, I saw just how much we rely on the thousands of people around the World who do not work within the ISO system, but who promote the use of ISO standards…. But I felt that this work, which is so critical to the success of our system, often went unnoticed."
The first ISO Prize was awarded earlier this week to Hulda Oliveira Giesbrecht for her work with small businesses in Brazil.
Opening up the world of standards was a key theme at this year's ISO General Assembly in St Petersburg. Many of the discussions focused on how we can help people both to use standards and get involved in their development, and Hulda was rewarded for doing just that.
She was recognized for her work with micro and small enterprises (MSEs) in Brazil, through the non-profit organization Sebrae where she works as a technical analyst.
Hulda Oliveira Geisbrecht and Boris Aleshin with the ISO Prize certificate Hulda Oliveira Giesbrecht receives the ISO Prize from Past President Boris Aleshin.
Sebrae's mission is to help improve the competitiveness of small businesses and to foster entrepreneurship. The goal is to strengthen the national economy as small businesses make up 99% of all Brazilian enterprises and contribute to 25% of the country's GDP. The organization provides support on many levels, for example with information technology and accessing finances. However, the project Hulda has been leading over the past few years concentrates on access to innovation and technology, through standards.
Access to technical knowledge
For Hulda, one of the biggest challenges for MSEs in Brazil is access to technical knowledge and this is where she believes standards can help.
"Standards represent the cutting edge of technical knowledge. If MSEs can have access to these documents and know how to use them, they can bring this knowledge into their business," she explained, after the awards ceremony. But, she said, standards do not always address the sector specific needs of MSEs and they find it difficult to get involved in the process in order to shape it.
Therefore, five years ago Sebrae (working with ISO's Brazilian member ABNT) established a project to help MSEs better understand the benefits of using standards, identify their standardization needs and help them to get involved in their development.
This project resulted in the identification of new areas of work and the establishment of 10 new project committees in ABNT to develop standards that address the sector specific needs of MSEs, she explained.
Giving an example, she highlighted work that had been done to improve the efficiency of bee keeping and honey production.
"We started talking to people in the bee keeping sector and saw that there were questions about how to make beehives, for example which type of wood to use, and the size and shape of the hives. Working together, we defined the most efficient way of making these hives. This knowledge is now available to bee keepers around the country, in the form of a standard. Now, funds some Brazilian banks give out to farmers to support their activities are tied to using this new standard. We have seen the honey yield go up significantly since introducing this standard," she explained.
Support in implementing standards
In addition, Hulda has been looking at how to support MSEs to use standards, as she believes they can sometimes be challenging for small companies to apply. "At the moment we are working with the hospitality sector to help them put in place food safety management systems, in preparation for the World Cup which will be held in Brazil," she said.
"ISO 22000 can be difficult for very small enterprises to implement. So, we are working with hotels, bars and restaurants to help them, making the standard more accessible."
Taking these actions international
As part of the award, Hulda will receive 20000 Swiss francs in order to finance a future project for MSEs. Within this project she aims to take the benefits of her work with Sebrae in Brazil onto the international stage. Over the next year, she will research similar initiatives in other countries with the aim of establishing guidelines to encourage and support small businesses in developing and using standards.
The findings of this one year project, and any recommendations, will be presented at next year's General Assembly held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
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