Key benefits offered by independent SDOs
- Consensus-based and user-accepted
Voluntary, independent consensus-based SDOs provide a value to society and to government that not fully noticed or appreciated by most citizens or officials. SDOs provide hundreds of technical, industry and scientific standards to the federal government each year, supporting market standardization and business innovation, promoting health, safety and the environment, and saving time and money for governments at all levels. Our consensus-based approach ensures that all stakeholders - including (depending on the subject) users, manufacturers, insurance providers, consumers, government regulatory agencies, enforcers, independent experts and academics - can participate and that no special interest can predominate.
There is no "one size fits all" approach to the adoption of private sector and non-profit standards by governments. NFPA works to make sure that the "incorporation by reference" standard is used in such a way to provide the public and governments with the access needed to protect public safety, health, the environment and markets in a manner that is open and transparent. As intellectual property protection is the lifeblood of the standards we produce, we literally cannot afford to make all our property available for free: we must continue to work with government to be flexible and align the needs of the public with the rights of property holders.
As a condition of our American National Standards Institute accreditation, it is required that our standards be regularly revised and updated to address the rapid and constant changes in technology and advances in safety. The speed of standards creation is essential when it comes to meeting the need for a revision of existing standards or introduction of new standards to address emerging health, safety or environmental issues.
SDOs marshal the vast expertise, diverse perspectives, and technical resources that are available outside the government in order to develop health, safety and environmental standards that are made available for government use at virtually no tax-payer cost. In addition, government use of standards decreases the burden of regulation and the costs of enforcement by conforming regulatory requirements to voluntary, user accepted standards that are already widely looked to for best practices and private self-regulation. Finally, the savings from standards can be seen in many areas of the economy.
- Self-sustaining and independent
Because independent SDOs hold copyright in their standards, they are able to fund their standards development activities from revenue generated from the publication and sale of their standards publications. This allows SDOs to keep the barriers to participation low and to retain their independence and freedom from potential influence by any industry or group. This funding model, moreover, is consistent with the wide and reasonable availability of standards, and SDOs are committed to working with government agencies to provide both pre- and post- adoption access to standards through a variety of means, appropriate to the many circumstances in which standards are adopted and used.
Importance of global trade to the U.S. economy
Nearly one quarter of U.S. economic output is tied to global trade. Of that, 12.5 percent of gross domestic product is tied to exports, with the rest being comprised of services. According to the Office of the United States Trade Representative, in the last half of 2009 and into the first half of 2010, exports contributed a full percentage point out of an average growth rate of 3.3 percent to GDP growth and have contributed over 1.5 percentage points to growth in the last year. This was a larger contribution than consumption or fixed investment. One reason American products compete well globally, and Americans benefit, is because of the development of voluntary consensus-based standards and the adoption of those standards in international markets. Standards help promote U.S. competitiveness by facilitating market entry.
Standards and trade
Although standards are well known for technical quality, their role in global trade is less well known but equally important. In the context of global trade, standards play several key roles:
- allow businesses to use a common language when seeking the sale or purchase of products.
- remove technical barriers to trade that would occur if product standards differed from country to country or region to region.
- provide for certainty of rules and regulations which allows companies to plan and more rationally allocate resources.
In the context of the United States, voluntary consensus based standards are developed with the input of business, safety advocates, academia, and other key stakeholders that provide firms with an international competitive edge. Companies have long become accustomed to quick reactions to produce better products to effectively compete in the global marketplace; voluntary consensus standards aid that adoption.