Management system standards

What is a management system?

A management system is the way in which an organization manages the inter-related parts of its business in order to achieve its objectives. These objectives can relate to a number of different topics, including product or service quality, operational efficiency, environmental performance, health and safety in the workplace and many more.

The level of complexity of the system will depend on each organization’s specific context. For some organizations, especially smaller ones, it may simply mean having strong leadership from the business owner, providing a clear definition of what is expected from each individual employee and how they contribute to the organization’s overall objectives, without the need for extensive documentation. More complex businesses operating, for example, in highly regulated sectors, may need extensive documentation and controls in order to fulfil their legal obligations and meet their organizational objectives.

The ISO model: agreed by experts

ISO management system standards (MSS) help organizations improve their performance by specifying repeatable steps that organizations consciously implement to achieve their goals and objectives, and to create an organizational culture that reflexively engages in a continuous cycle of self-evaluation, correction and improvement of operations and processes through heightened employee awareness and management leadership and commitment.

The benefits of an effective management system to an organization include:

  • More efficient use of resources and improved financial performance,
  • Improved risk management and protection of people and the environment, and
  • Increased capability to deliver consistent and improved services and products, thereby increasing value to customers and all other stakeholders.

MSS are the result of consensus among international experts with expertise in global management, leadership strategies, and efficient and effective processes and practices. MSS standards can be implemented by any organization, large or small.

Management standards, management systems standards and related standards: the big picture

This picture explains what are the different types of ISO documents supporting the management of an organization and what these documents deal with. Examples of standards for each quadrant are also provided.

Management standards, management systems standards and related standards
Management standards, management systems standards and related standards


Audits are a vital part of the management system approach as they enable the company or organization to check how far their achievements meet their objectives and show conformity to the standard.

In order to help the auditing related to these standards, ISO has released ISO 19011:2011 providing specific guidance on internal and external management system audits.

Keeping it simple

Many ISO management system standards have the same structure [PDF] and contain many of the same terms and definitions. This is particularly useful for those organizations that choose to operate a single (sometimes called “integrated”) management system that can meet the requirements of two or more management system standards simultaneously.

The future in your hands

Standards are developed by the people who need them – that could mean you.

Technical committees include experts from both standards and industry and these experts are put forward by ISO’s national members. If you want to help shape future standards in your field, contact your national member.

Cover page: The Integrated Use of Management System Standards (IUMSS)
The Integrated Use of Management System Standards (IUMSS)
The second edition of the handbook has been published to help organizations of any sector or industry and size, integrate requirements of multiple MSS into their management systems.


Certification to management system standards is not a requirement. You can benefit from implementing these standards without being certified to them.

However, if you are looking to get certified to one or more of our management system standards, then you need to get in touch with an external certification body.

That's because ISO does not perform certification.

Read more about certification to ISO standards.

Certification is not the only way to show conformity to standards. Read more about conformity assessment.

ISO survey

Find out how many certificates to ISO management standards are awarded in each country, each year.

What's the difference between Type A and Type B MSS?

Useful to know when it comes to conformity.

Management system standards

We have a number of management system standards, each focusing on different issues affecting global business.
More information can be found by clicking on the following links.

workers at a renewable energy plan,  asian engineers  working in  solar power station.
ISO 50001 Energy management
ISO's standard for helping organizations manage their energy performance.
Production line into press plant house.
ISO 9001 Quality management
The ISO 9000 family is the world's most best known quality management standard for companies and organizations of any size.
Some fruits
ISO 14000 Environmental management
Improve your environmental performance with this family of standards.
Live concert
ISO 20121 Sustainable events
Manage the social, economic and environmental impacts of your event with this standard.
Nurse measuring blood pressure.
ISO 45001 Occupational health and safety
Reduce workplace risks and make sure that everyone gets home safely with ISO 45001.
ISO/IEC 27001 Information security management
Security for any kind of digital information, the ISO/IEC 27000 family of standards is designed for any size of organization.
ISO 22000 Food safety management
Inspire confidence in your food products with this family of standards.
ISO 37001 Anti-bribery management systems
Prevent, detect and address bribery.
See ISO standards in action
Learn about how International Standards work in the real world, and the benefits they bring to business, society and the environment.