Standards are an aspect of industry self-regulation. They pervade a significant part of human activity and affect environmental quality and sustainability in a multitude of ways. For example, standards are used to set minimum environmental performance levels of products and processes and in defining measurement methodologies to monitor the environmental quality of human environments. Standards can also affect the labelling requirements for products such as domestic appliances and therefore play an important role in consumer protection.
Standards are primarily designed for voluntary use. However, laws and regulations may refer to standards and make compliance with them compulsory. An example of this is the Eco-Design Directive for energy-related products (2009/125/EC). The Directive sets product-specific regulations for appliances such as washing machines, boilers, TVs and computers and these are supported by standards setting out the requirements for test methods to demonstrate compliance with the regulations’ minimum energy performance requirements.
Standards are increasingly of interest to policy makers and regulators in Europe as an alternative to formal regulation and conforming to standards is seen as a means of reducing the need for inspections and enforcement action by regulatory authorities.