What Is an ISO in Accounting?
Accounting and business terminology is rife with words and phrases that make little sense to outsiders. Among these many enigmatic terms lies ISO, the internationally accepted name for the International Organization for Standardization. Though occasionally associated with accounting practices, the organization relates more directly to the world of international business. ISO maintains only a few publications directly addressing accounting, though some ISO literature refers to accounting practices.
The International Standardization Organization creates and publishes standards for international businesses. ISO constitutes a network of 162 national standards organizations in as many countries, with international headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. These organizations all contribute to the development of ISO’s international standards publications. ISO constitutes a non-governmental organization with a goal of bridging the public and private sector for the benefit of each. The organization derived the name ISO from “isos,” the Greek work for “equal,” to avoid the confusion of maintaining acronyms in numerous languages.
The ISO generally refrains from publishing guides to standardized accounting practices. However, the organization does publish a guide to environmentally sustainable accounting practices. ISO 14000, a publication regarding environmental management for businesses, contains ISO 14064, which focuses on accounting for businesses dealing in greenhouse gases. Accounting practices covered in this publication include managing, accounting and bookkeeping with direct relation to greenhouse gas caps, trading and emissions. As with all ISO publications, companies adopt ISO 14000 and 14064 voluntarily.
The ISO 9000 series covers management and leadership for businesses. According to Steven M. Bragg, author of “Accounting Policies and Procedures Guidelines,” the ideas set forth in ISO 9000, such as creating thorough documentation and an easily traceable paper trail, also apply to good accounting practices, despite their focus on management practices. The ISO co-publishes a handful of standards with the International Electrotechnical Commission. Some of these publications, such as Corporate Governance and Information Technology (ISO/IEC 38500), make mention of accounting but focus on other areas.
Though ISO publishes no overarching guides regarding accounting standards, various other organizations oblige this need. The International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) creates publications of this nature for most countries, while the United States adheres to Generally Accepted Accounting Practices (GAAP). Various GAAP guides exist, though the federal government generally adopts GAAP standards developed by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB). A non-governmental organization, FASB works closely with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which governs securities and commodities trading in the United States.