What are standards?

Standards are everywhere, in business as well as in our daily lives: the A4 format, 3G networks, ISO 9001, etc. Standards are an important part of our society.


A standard is an agreement about a product, a service or a process. Standards reflect best practices in many areas of activity in industry, the service sector and the public sector.

A standard is not a law but it can be voluntarily applied by all stakeholders: producers, suppliers, customers, service providers, etc. This does not mean that compliance with a standard cannot become mandatory. On the one hand,  public authorities can refer to standards in legislation and regulations. On the other, contracts can also refer to the application of standards.


Standardisation is the process of creating a standard. Interested parties agree on the specific characteristics of a product, service or process. Standardisation takes place in committees with representatives of all stakeholders, on the basis of consensus, with all participants having an equal say. Read more on the  Standardisation page.

Standards mainly originate in the business world, but other stakeholders can contribute to the standardisation process. Consequently, standards also take into account environmental protection, sustainability, consumer safety and other societal issues.

Standards and copyright

Standards are protected by copyright. This means that no standard may be reproduced, in whole or in part, without the express permission of NBN. Request permission using this form.


  • Paper versions of a standard may not be copied.
  • If you have purchased a standard in PDF format, you may print out and keep no more than one copy. A PDF version may not be distributed via your organisation’s Intranet (or another, similar medium).
  • Paper copies may be kept in a library that is accessible to your employees.