Feature: Standards: The Way Forward

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Standards are often forgotten but crucial cogs in our daily lives. They regulate the quality of everything that we consume – from appliances and coffee, to clothing and technology. They ultimately ensure continuity in products and services for the benefit of both the producer and the consumer.??

One agency charged with the mandate of monitoring the regulations related to standards is the Barbados National Standards Institution (BNSI). It brought the importance of standards to the fore recently by staging a Visibility Conference, at the Courtyard at Marriott in Hastings.

The event outlined the day to day operations of the BNSI, – most importantly, how it could make a difference for businesses. Stakeholders from all sectors such as consumer agencies, statutory bodies, business enterprises and non-governmental agencies, gathered for the enlightening session, which emphasized the need for a greater focus on standards.

Delivering the feature address, Minister of Commerce, Senator Haynesley Benn explained that the economic and social benefits are just two of the positive effects of standardisation.?? He noted that the use of benchmarks was no longer an option, but was the deciding factor for whether a business would sink or swim.

"In the global market, standards are crucial to realising and maintaining market access. Domestic producers no longer have a secured home market.?? Local manufacturers are now faced with competition in the domestic market, from cheaper goods produced regionally and extra-regionally. Local manufacturers must now produce goods of a high quality in order to secure their share of the domestic market," the Minister said.??

He also observed that the growing influence of global, rather than local markets meant that international standards had to be observed and where necessary, adopted in an effort to remain in tandem with current standards.?? Mr. Benn explained that standards were not only beneficial for commerce but created a safer consumer market.

"We already have a large number of standards related to food and the food industry, so we recognise the importance of this sector to Barbados.?? But some of our food standards are somewhat dated…The BNSI has already started a programme of replacing our dated national standards with current CODEX ones…this will get the message across that Barbados will only accept food products in conformity with these new CODEX standards," ??he pointed out.

The Trade Minister also spoke about the improvement of standards within the BNSI itself, indicating that the ongoing modernisation of the Barbados National Standards Systems project would further strengthen the organisation and increase its capacity. He maintained that standardisation not only reduced cost and wastage, created a greener economy and increased consumer safety but it also provided tangible economic results, with studies estimating that it contributed one per cent of Gross Domestic Product – in the amount of 72 million dollars to the national economy.

According to Mr. Benn, benefits from standards implementation may be gleaned for any sector and he stressed that agriculture was no exception, adding: "A recent newspaper article showed that we use two and a half million tonnes of onions on our island every year, and yet we produce only half a million of these…how does this link to standardisation?

One of the very first Barbadian National Standards to enter our new Standards Review Procedure was BNS 22 Onions.?? The new standard for onions will support the project currently being implemented by the BADMC…We may well be able to increase national production and cut down wastage from our own crops…" he explained.

National involvement need not be limited to government.?? In fact, as Chief Technical Officer at the BNSI, Fabian Scott, said any entity, large or small, could benefit from standards. He underlined that while his organisation helped formulate standards, it was essential that businesses affected by a particular benchmark, participated in the process. He added that organisations should not feel overwhelmed when introducing a standard for their business, since the BNSI’s role was to aid in the process – from creation to implementation.

"We’ll assist [businesses] in implementing standards, as that is also part of the function of the BNSI Standards Act – Part 2, subsection 3(e) states that we attend to the facilitation and implementation of standards in Barbados," Mr. Scott explained.

There were also presentations at the visibility Conference on the BNSI Standards Review Procedure, by Dr. Adam Pinney, a consultant from the British Standards Institution and The Modernisation of the Barbados National Standards System by Mr. Scott.

However, in summing up the focal point of the session Gaston Michaud, of the British Standards Institution, said, simply: "those who participate make the standard; those who don’t, have to live with it".??

Essentially, organisations and their participation, contribution and ultimate implementation help give standards the importance they deserve; and standards, in turn, serve to take businesses, governments and organisations to the next level.

nekaelia.hutchinson@barbados.gov.bb

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