Academic journal article Journal of Business Economics and Management

Adoption of ISO 9000 Management Standard in EU's Transition Economies: The Case of the Baltic States

Academic journal article Journal of Business Economics and Management

Adoption of ISO 9000 Management Standard in EU's Transition Economies: The Case of the Baltic States

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

In the last two decades we have witnessed an acceleration of the process of harmonization with regard to business management, in an economic context characterized by a marked process of globalization and economic integration of markets. In a global economy, without standardization and its results--standards, technical standards and specifications--interchanges would become exceedingly difficult. Standardization can, then, stimulate international trade by eliminating obstacles arising from different national practices. Thus, standards are important for the promotion of economic efficiency as they provide a basis for reducing information-related transaction costs (Nadvi and Waltring 2004).

Standardization, or harmonization, could be defined in a general way as an activity aiming to apply an ordered system to repetitive functions that take place in the context of industry, technology, science and the economy. Standardization constitutes a mechanism of coordination and an instrument of regulation comparable to other instruments such as public regulations, markets, and hierarchies or formal organizations (Antonelli 1994; Brunsson and Jacobsson 2000). Standardization has been crucial for the development of the industrial society (Blind 2004). At its origins, in the early 20th century, standardization was introduced in order to curb an uneconomical divergence of components, parts and supplies and to foster their interchangeability so as to facilitate mass production and the repair and maintenance of products and services. Standardization, however, has gone further than this and has come to be applied to the very management processes and systems by which products and services are produced (Heras 2006). Brunsson and Jacobsson (2000) refer to these as standards for administrative processes, and Furusten (2000) as "standards on how to design and manage organizations". We can explicitly identify these administrative standards with what we would define here as management system standards (MSS), also referred to as metastandards (Uzumeri 1997), two terms that already have a tradition of academic acceptance (e.g. Corbett and Yeung 2008).

These management standards are, of course, to be distinguished from the technical norms and specifications relating to those requirements with which particular products or processes need to comply. MSSs are standards which correspond to the standardization of a very wide range of aspects of business activity, such as quality management (e.g. ISO 9000), environmental management (e.g. ISO 14000), the prevention of occupational hazards and the provision of health and safety regulations in the workplace (e.g. OHSAS 18000), and corporate social responsibility (e.g. SA 8000, ISO 26000). All of these standards tend to have a very similar methodology in relation to their creation, structure, process of implementation and monitoring by a third party. Among them ISO 9000 is arguably the most influential single international MSSs that there has been to date (Braun 2005).

This article contains an analysis of the adoption of this main global management standard on an international level within the EU's transition economies. Furthermore, the article focuses on the specific case of the Baltic States, where the EU's importance in foreign trade has grown rapidly (Liuhto and Jumpponen 2003). Following this introduction, ISO 9000 is presented in short. In the third section a very short overview of the relationship between ISO 9000 and international business is presented. The fourth section contains an empirical analysis of the dissemination of ISO 9000 within the EU, and, in special, in its transition economies. The fifth section features a specific analysis of the dissemination of ISO 9000 within the Baltic States. The paper concludes with a summary of the main discussion and the conclusions drawn and references.

2. ISO 9000: the first global management standard

The ISO 9000 family of standards was created, in its initial form, in 1987, and underwent substantial revisions in 1994 and 2000 (1), by the International Standardization Organization (the last version of the standard has been launched in 2008). …

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