BSI Group, also known in its home market as the British Standards Institution (or BSI) is a multinational business services provider whose principal activity is the production of standards and the supply of standards-related services.
BSI Group was founded as the Engineering Standards Committee in London in 1901. It subsequently extended its standardization work and became the British Engineering Standards Association in 1918, adopting the name British Standards Institution in 1931 after receiving its Royal Charter in 1929. In 1998 a revision of the Charter enabled the organization to diversify and acquire other businesses, and the trading name was changed to BSI Group.
The Group now operates out of three divisions with over 50 offices in more than 25 countries. The core business remains standards and standards related services, although the majority of the Group’s revenue now comes from management systems assessment work.
BSI British Standards is the core division of BSI Group. As the UK’s National Standards Body, BSI British Standards is responsible for producing and publishing British Standards and for representing UK interests at international standards fora like ISO, IEC, CEN, CENELEC and ETSI which produce international and European standards.
Standards are written guidelines which help to do things, or make things, more efficiently or more safely. They are written through a formal prescribed process which involves consultation with relevant bodies and reaching consensus across all interested parties so that the final document meets the needs of business and society. All standards take the form of either: specifications, methods, vocabularies, codes of practice or guides.
Standards can be about pretty much anything. BSI produces standards on everything from nuts and bolts to sustainability, risk, business continuity management and nanotechnology.
Consensus standards are titled BS (for British Standard) XXXX[-P]:YYYY where XXXX is the number of the standard, P is the number of the part of the standard (where the standard is split into multiple parts) and YYYY is the year of publication.
It produces British Standards, and, as the UK’s National Standards Body, is also responsible for the UK publication, in English, of a range of international and European standards. These are called Adopted standards. Of these, BSI is obliged to adopt all European Standards and withdraw conflicting British Standards, but has the option of adopting international standards.
In response to commercial demands, BSI British Standards also produces commissioned standards products such as Publicly Available Specifications, (PASs), Private Standards and Business Information Publications.
These products are commissioned by individual organizations and trade associations to meet their needs for standardized specifications, guidelines, codes of practice etc. Because they are not subject to the same consultation and consensus requirements as formal standards the lead time is much shorter.
The division also publishes standards-related books, CD-ROMs, subscription products and web-based solutions as well as providing training on standards-related issues.
Many British Standards, as well as some European and International standards that have been adopted as British Standards (e.g. BS EN ISO 9001:2000) are available in public and university libraries in the United Kingdom and on paper or online from a British Standards Online subscription.
British Standards are also available to buy directly from BSI or they can be ordered via the publishing units of many other National Standards Bodies (ANSI, DIN etc) and from several specialized suppliers of technical specifications.
A Publicly Available Specification (PAS) is a flexible and rapid standards development model that is open to all organizations. A PAS is a sponsored piece of work allowing organizations flexibility in the creation of a rapid standard while also allowing for a greater degree of control over the document's development. A typical development timeframe for a PAS is around six to eleven months. Once published by BSI a PAS has all the functionality of a British Standard for the purposes of creating schemes such as management systems and product benchmarks as well as codes of practice. A PAS is a living document and after two years the document will be reviewed and a decision made with the client as to whether or not this should be taken forward to become a formal British Standard. If an organization has an interest in the possibility of developing a PAS a specialist will first meet with the client and understand fully what is required before developing and presenting a full proposal.
The BSI Management Systems division of BSI Group is the world’s largest certification body. It audits and provides certification to companies worldwide who implement management systems standards. BSI Management Systems also provides a range of training courses regarding implementation and auditing to the requirements of national and international management systems standards.
It is independently accredited and delivers assessments for a wide range of standards and other specifications including:
The division certifies approximately 60,000 locations in over 110 countries and operates across the UK, CEMEA, Asia Pacific (including Japan and China) and the Americas.
Subsequent to an acquisition in 2006, BSI Management Systems also offers a web-based integrated management system software service called Entropy Software which specializes in helping large organizations manage risk and compliance issues.
BSI Management Systems also offers a range of training services on how businesses can implement and audit management systems effectively.
BSI Product Services is the testing and certification division of BSI Group.
Its best known product in the UK is the Kitemark, a registered certification mark first used in 1903. The Kitemark – which is recognized by 82% of UK adults – signifies products or services which have been assessed and tested as meeting the requirements of the related specification or standard within a Kitemark scheme.
BSI Product Services also conducts testing of products for a wide range of certifications, including for CE marking. CE marking must be applied to a wide range of products intended for sale in the European Economic Area. Frequently manufacturers or importers need a third-party certification of their product from an accredited or ‘Notified’ body. BSI Product Services holds Notified Body status for 17 EU Directives, including medical devices, construction products, marine equipment, pressurized equipment and personal protective equipment.
BSI Product Testing also conducts testing for manufacturers developing new products and has facilities to test across a wide range of sectors, including construction, fire safety, electrical and electronic, engineering products and medical devices.
Starting in 1998, BSI Group has adopted an aggressive policy of international growth through acquisition as follows: