7 Standard Setters

What is a standard?  Good question, standards can often seem like regulations.  Their authors can also seem like they are regulators as well. Standards associations can be government sponsored, or arms length non-profits or even for-profit private groups. But they are neither a regulator nor a regulation.  They have a certain gravitas, but not the force of law on their own.

When a standard is referenced in a regulation, then the effect is the same as that of the law.  But without mention of them in the law, they really have no official standing.  They may play a part in the concept of due diligence.

Some common entities that should be considered when examining Canadian environmental laws include the following, with the reminder that this also is not an exhaustive list:

Canadian Standards Association (CSA) (Canada)

The Canadian Standards Association (CSA) standards sometimes seem like they are the law. This is because their standards are frequently referenced in provincial and federal regulations.  The CSA have standards on many different aspects of safety from hard hats to electrical units.   The have standards on environmental management (ISO 14000 series) and many other environmental topics. In Canada, the CSA participates in and re-brands many of the ISO standards (CSA Group Registries, n.d.).

The CSA is not a regulator itself.

In Alberta, CSA standards are mentioned 214 times in the OH&S code (Occupational Health and Safety Code AR 191/2021, 2021).  Where mentioned in a regulation, a CSA standard is then an integral part of the regulation.

A popular standard for site assessment in Canada is Z768-01 (R2022) Phase I Environmental Site Assessment.  The CSA web site notes that ASTM Standard E 1527  was used as a reference for the Canadian standard.

The standards can be purchased from the CSA store which is located at https://www.csagroup.org/store.  There are some standards that can be viewed by going through provincial occupational and health and safety portals.  Sometimes these portals can allow a user to view the standards for free.  The CSA store also sells other international standards

International Organization for Standardization (ISO) (International)

ISO is the International Organization of Standardization, which reminds us that perhaps not everyone speaks English as a first language. ISO has written and maintains thousands of standards. The ISO organization has linked their standards to the 17 United Nations sustainable development goals (ISO – Standards, n.d.)

Some popular standards include a series on quality (9000 series), environmental management (14000 series) and information security (27001 series). They have other series including film speed (one of their original standards), standards for children’s seats in cars, medical devices, labs risk management, social responsibility, and occupational health and safety. There are a lot of standards. .

ISO standards do not have the weight of law unless incorporated into a country’s laws.  There are few examples in Canadian environmental law that include use of the standards, with the exception of climate change regulations which refer to international standards. Manufacturers have often adopted the standards and impose them on their suppliers.  So, for example if you want to supply car parts to Ford Motor Company you may need to have an ISO 9000 quality control system.

ISO standards can be purchased at their web site, https://www.iso.org/home.html, or from the CSA website.

American National Standard Institute (ANSI) (United States)

The American National Standard Institute (ANSI) is focused on developing in an “open, equitable” manner, standards for use in the United States.  They also are participating in and selling ISO standards, similar to the CSA (ANSI, n.d.). As with a CSA standard, an ANSI standard can become the law if it is referenced specifically in a regulation.

ANSI is also not a regulator and in a bit of a difference from the CSA, as they have public/private partnerships where the private sector develops standards.

ANSI standards can be purchased at https://webstore.ansi.org/

 American Society of Testing Materials (ASTM) (International)

The American Society of Testing Materials (ASTM) is an American organization that sets standards for testing fuels, building materials, steel, and many other materials.  It had its start in the American railroad industry when railroads were trying to get more consistent rails for its lines.

The society is also part of the International Association of Testing Materials (IATM) which is truly international in scope.

The ASTM also has thousands of standards and contributors from over 100 countries. (ASTM, n.d.)  One of its popular standards is ASTM E1527-21, Standard Practice for Environmental Site Assessment Process.  This practice standard is written with United States regulations in mind.

ASTM sells its standards at https://webstore.ansi.org/

British Standards Institute (BSI)  (United Kingdom)

British Standards Institute, most commonly abbreviated as BSI, began as an outfall of engineering standards discussions that began at the beginning of the 1900s.  Similar to the United States’ ASTM, the BSI discussions began on steel.  Today, BSI reports its standards are used in o193 countries and their catalogue of standards reaches over 95,000 standards (BSI Canada, n.d.).

Similarly, to CSA, BSI will rebrand some ISO standards for use in the United Kingdom.  Over the past decade they have been concerned with coordinating the British Standards with European standards.  This work may currently be in abeyance.

The BSI operated with a Royal Charter (they will need to be re-appointed by King Charles III) and is the United Kingdom’s representative on ISO standards development.  BSI also repackages the ISO standards (BSI Canada, n.d.).

Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) (International)

This rather more recent standard association is the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board.  Its mission is to drive common accounting measures of sustainability so investors and other stakeholders can examine and compare corporate efforts to become more sustainable (SASB, n.d.)


There is obvious opportunity for overlap.  So carefully crafted regulations will allow for equivalents and you may see multiple standards referenced.  One example can be found in Alberta’s Occupational, Health and Safety Code where both a CSA standard and an ANSI standard are referenced for the same device.  The excerpt follows (Occupational Health and Safety Code, AR 191/2021, 220):

“229(3) If a worker must wear full face piece respiratory protective equipment
and the face piece is intended to prevent materials striking the eyes, an
employer must ensure that the face piece
(a) meets the requirements of
(i) CSA Standard Z94.3-07, Eye and Face Protectors, or
(ii) CSA Standard Z94.3-02, Eye and Face Protectors,
(b) meets the impact and penetration test requirements of section 9 of
(i) ANSI Standard Z87.1-2003, Occupational and Educational
Personal Eye and Face Protection Devices, or
(ii) ANSI Standard Z87.1-1989, Practice for Occupational and
Educational Eye and Face Protection.

Many international standards do reference each other, so it is important to understand which standard is relevant to the environmental work at hand.

Climate Change

One of the challenges of combating climate change is how to ensure every country is on the same page.  To be equivalent, we need standards on how to calculate inventories, how to document improvements, and how to trade credit for actions.  These issues point to the need to have agreed international standards incorporated into local regulations worldwide.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has established many standardized means of considering climate change and the related emissions.   An example of a standardized process is the IPCC’s “2019 Refinement to the 2006 IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories” (IPCC, 2019)

Section Conclusion

The standard setters discussed are only a sample of the world’s standard setting organizations.  Legally any standard becomes part of a regulation only when they are referred to in the regulation.

They can become a legal issue outside of a regulation though in terms of Due Diligence. If a standard is used by a majority of a sector despite the absence of a legal requirement to do so, the defense of an entity that did everything reasonably to prevent an event might be problematic in the absence of the use of the standard.

Learning Questions

  1. In the Alberta OH&S Code, find a reference to a BSI Standard.  Is there an equivalent CSA standard?
    • You can find the Code at: https://www.alberta.ca/occupational-health-and-safety-code-and-explanation-guide.aspxhttps
  2. In the same Alberta OH&S Code, identify another similar type of standard setting organization?


American National Standard Institute (ANSI). (n.d.). Web Store, Retrieved from https://webstore.ansi.org/

American Society of Material Testing (ASTM). (n.d.). Home page. Retrieved from https://www.astm.org/

British Standards Institute (BSI). (n.d.).  Standards, Training, Testing, Assessment and Certification | BSI Canada.  Retrieved from https://www.bsigroup.com/en-CA/

Canadian Standards Association (CSA). (n.d.). CSA Store. Retrieved from https://www.csagroup.org/store

International Organization for Standardization (ISO). (n.d.). Home page. Retrieved from https://www.iso.org/home.html

International Organization for Standardization (ISO). (n.d.). ISO – Contributing to the UN sustainable development goals. Retrieved from https://www.iso.org/publication/PUB100429.html

Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). (2019).  2019-refinement-to-the-2006-ipcc-guidelines-for-national-greenhouse-gas-inventories. Retrieved from https://www.ipcc.ch/report/2019-refinement-to-the-2006-ipcc-guidelines-for-national-greenhouse-gas-inventories/

Occupational Health and Safety Code AR 191/2021

Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB). (n.d.).  Home page. Retrieved from https://www.sasb.org/


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Regulations and the Environment Copyright © 2023 by Tim Taylor is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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