As Canada’s voice on the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), SCC promotes national priorities by ensuring we have an influential voice at the table shaping the international standards of tomorrow. Our country’s interests are strongly represented at ISO with SCC’s CEO Chantal Guay serving on the ISO Council. ISO’s governing body is made up of 20 elected member bodies, ISO officers and the chairs of ISO’s policy development committees.
Chantal was elected in the fall of 2019 for a three-year mandate and is the first woman to both lead SCC and represent Canada on the ISO Council. She has an important role in advancing Canada’s interests on crucial issues such as trade, boosting innovation and responding to borderless challenges. In her campaign to be elected, Chantal highlighted three priorities she wanted to help advance: regional engagement, innovation in standards use and development, and advancing standardization worldwide.
Now that she has served on the ISO Council for almost one year, we asked Chantal a few questions about her experience representing Canada on this body and leading on the international standardization stage.
In your campaign, you identified strong relationships and collaboration as something that is very important to you. Why do you think collaboration is so important in international standards work?
Collaboration is at the heart of standards development. Without collaboration, it would be impossible for experts from all around the world to reach consensus on the content of the standard they are working on. Collaboration is anchored in trust, good faith and a common desire to make the world a better place. With collaboration, something amazing happens: synergy is created between the individual contributions and the outcome is much greater than the sum of each part. The other great outcome of collaboration is an expansion of our understanding of the world around us by being exposed to the perspectives of others. Through collaboration, we evolve together.
In your work on the Council over the past year, is there something you are specifically proud of that has helped advance the priorities you committed to?
Yes. At its last meeting, Council approved a Regional engagement policy that places members and their specific needs based on where they are located at its centre. As a member-based organization, ISO must be engaged with all its members not just through its activities but also through its governance. SCC is a member of two regional standards organization, the Pan American Standards Commission (COPANT) and Pacific Area Standards Congress (PASC), and together with our colleagues from these two groups, we have been making sure to convey a strong and common message that ISO must engage with all its members and tend to their needs, wherever they are around the world.
Many of the challenges the world faces today are borderless. How do organizations like ISO help respond to those?
Standardization is essential to the health, safety, well-being, competitiveness and connectivity of every nation. With the increase in global connectivity and trade, there must be an entity that facilitates bringing experts from around the world to a common table to develop solutions. The principals that underpin the voluntary standardization system are very important, as those standards reflect a balanced representation of stakeholders, consensus-based decision making, transparency, and public review. Standards are great solutions to ensure that products, services and goods can move around the world while health and safety of communities are protected.
What is something you’ve learned being involved in standardization internationally?
Interestingly enough, although all national standards bodies (NSB) have a similar mandate, the way they are structured to deliver on it is as diverse as there are members. It makes our interactions and collaboration with any national standard body a very rich experience. The learnings are incredible no matter how mature the NSB is or if they are from a developing country or not.
One of your priorities, both for SCC and ISO, is innovation. Under your leadership, SCC has helped position Canada as a world-leading centre for innovation by working directly with innovators to make standards part of their business strategy. In the past year on the ISO Council, have you seen a shift in how ISO’ strategic plan incorporates innovation?
Absolutely. I believe there has been a transformation happening at ISO over the past few years but the pandemic has most certainly focused our attention and has accelerated this transformation. The ISO 2030 Strategy is definitely anchored in transformation of the way standards are developed and used with an important outreach component to users, to better understand their needs, and the next generation of standards makers including innovators not yet involved.
Why is a role like this important to you? Has your perspective on its importance changed at all over the past year?
It hasn’t changed, it has been confirmed. Canada has a lot to offer in terms of its values and a good way to share them is by working with other nations at international standardization tables and input those values in the work being done. Because of the importance of standards for the health, well-being, safety and competitiveness of our country, this will always remain a very important role.
Among our other roles at ISO, Canada has a voice on the ISO Technical Management Board. Mkabi Walcott, Vice President of Standards and International Relations at SCC, was elected to the ISO Technical Management Board in 2018. The board is responsible for the general management of technical committees that set international standards across industries.