SNV Story No. 12: Thank you to our members

For a competitive Switzerland and convenience in everyday life

One year, 11 SNV members and a colourful mix of fascinating stories. Thank you to all the SNV members who showed a great deal of commitment this year by providing us with a glimpse behind the scenes of their companies, organizations and projects. To round out the series, we spoke about the SNV membership with Urs Fischer, CEO of the Swiss Association for Standardization (SNV) and Head of Membership.

Urs Fischer, CEO of the Swiss Association for Standardization (SNV) and Head of Membership

SNV: Why are standards important?
Urs Fischer: Standards are a common and universal language. An essential part of standards is the vocabulary they use, that is, their terminology. It is therefore unsurprising that it sometimes takes years for projects to fine-tune and perfect this terminology so that the end result is effective and practical. Those who apply standards in production or trade or in the provision of services save time and money. Consumers also benefit from standards in terms of security and convenience in everyday life when different systems work together seamlessly. In addition, standards are value-neutral, with no political, religious or cultural dimensions. Standards make our lives better in ways that we notice, and even more often in ways that we are completely unaware of.

SNV: What fascinates you personally about standardization work?
Urs Fischer: The infinite possibilities and the wide array of variants. I was not fully conscious of these aspects when I first began serving in this position. Today, standards are a component of the fascination I have for my profession, which continues to inspire and motivate me even after 20 years. Another part of it is the international nature of the work. The SNV is an important voice not only nationally but also on the European and global levels. And despite all the enthusiasm I have for standards, I am happy that not all things in life are standardized. Discovering typical and regional cuisine is one of the activities I always engage in on my travels around the world.

SNV: Let’s talk about SNV membership. What are the key advantages?
Urs Fischer: I would emphasize two keywords: network and time. With the SNV membership, companies and the experts they appoint have access to an international network, one that brings together the crème de la crème of the industry at a fair price. When engaged in standardization work, competitors work together in a manner that is more constructive than usual. The rivalry you might expect is not there, and the members instead work together to find solutions. Competition takes a backseat in the organization, and you find yourself in a community that is also much more pragmatic than legislative bodies. Experts and professionals are doing work to benefit their fellow practitioners and specialists. This work together also enables companies to save valuable time, which can then be converted into a competitive advantage. Although standards are not mandatory, you can gain a temporary advantage by adapting your business model, production or processes to future market circumstances in a timely manner. Only those who participate in standardization work can take advantage of such in-depth insights.

SNV: Do the committee arrangements allow for transparent and honest collaboration?
Urs Fischer: The SNV has signed the WTO Code of Conduct, which includes provisions that require that standardization work be carried out transparently and without any hidden agendas. We monitor compliance with these stipulations within the framework of what is possible in the committees. SNV members may exercise their veto rights if they suspect that two parties are conspiring against any third parties. The SNV has already taken action in this regard on behalf of one of its members, preventing at the highest level that an alliance that had been secretly forged between two European countries would have unfairly forced a Swiss provider out of the market.

SNV: Can a member initiate new standards?
Urs Fischer: Any member can bring new standards into being. The first step in doing so is always to launch a project. The SNV itself is also committed to the establishment of new standards. An example of something that has appeared on our radar would be cannabis, which has not yet been standardized. Standards are created to help ensure that touted products are free of pesticides, for example. Producers today can claim that their products are of the purest quality without providing any proof – and many blatantly exploit this situation. Hemp is used in four areas: as industrial hemp, as medicinal hemp, in food and as “recreational” hemp with an intoxicating effect. Some time ago, we invited a variety of different interest groups to Bern for the project launch and were surprised by demonstrators. Our work is currently stalled in the area of terminology. The topic is politically and socially controversial, a circumstance that has a major influence on our work. Despite the lack of specific standards, we are optimistic that consumers will benefit from our work. Closer cooperation already exists with Canada and the Netherlands. It’s a prime example of how varied standardization work can be in the real world.

SNV: How strong is Switzerland’s position in standardization work?
Urs Fischer: On the international stage, Switzerland is a very active and respected player, and there are measurable parameters that substantiate the power of its position. These metrics include the extent to which a country chairs the committees and how many of its experts are involved in committee work. Of the 164 participating countries, we rank among the top 15 countries in terms of commitment to standardisation. In addition to the “hard” key figures, we have a team of experts who are regarded throughout the world as opinion leaders, pioneers and proven luminaries in their fields of specialization and who have become indispensable on the standardization stage.

SNV: How much time do I have to spend as an SNV member or delegated expert?
Urs Fischer: The time and effort involved can be determined by the experts or by the SNV members themselves. If the experts play the role of a simple observer, the effort required is extremely low. Depending on their cost/benefit calculation, the SNV member can invest more time and thus achieve greater leverage for influencing and steering market conditions in their industry. Even before the pandemic, the SNV was already relying on virtual collaboration in order to deliberately optimize the use of members’ time on a sustainable basis.

SNV: How does the SNV support new members in familiarizing themselves with the complex subject of standardization work?
Urs Fischer: Our SNV Academy supports our members and other interested parties with a wide-ranging course programme. You can book individual modules as individual or company courses. Our members are granted a 20 per cent discount off the participation fees. In addition, every new member is entitled to free personal or virtual training through the Member Service or the relevant committee managers.

SNV: How will you be looking back on this eventful year?
Urs Fischer: The year has once again demonstrated that standards are valuable in every situation in life. Despite the pandemic, diligent work continued, and in some areas we even saw a real boom in new standards projects. I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to the SNV members for all they have done. For continuing to be loyal to us and for experiencing and sharing the value of standards and uniform language despite or even because of the uncertainty of the times.

SNV: What would you like to see in future standardization work?
Urs Fischer: For Switzerland as a workplace, I hope that we will continue to maintain and expand our strong position in standardization work. There is a lot going on in the market internationally. Global players such as China are piling on the pressure and introducing new projects every month. In this intensive phase, I believe that it is extremely important for Switzerland to not remain passive as characterized by cultural stereotypes, but that it instead takes the initiative and approaches the innovative partners. This is the only way to maintain our good position and keep intact our constructive influence on current and future market opportunities for our country. I would also like us to continue to develop as an association, to remain open to the contemporary needs of established and new stakeholders, and to help shape future opportunities in a self-determined way.

Preview of 2022 stories
We are nowhere near running out of stories to tell. Next year we will be putting our focus on standards in training. You can look forward to an instructive assortment of articles.

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SNV 2021 General Meeting of Members | Live stream

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