The position paper on proposals by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to create an ISO risk management standard 2009 that was issued by FERMA in July to assist member associations in national working groups essentially said that FERMA believes that a formal international risk management standard, especially with an externally verified compliance regime, is undesirable and would not benefit European companies.

This provoked a strongly worded response from Kevin Knight, convenor of the ISO working group on risk management, expressing concern that the position paper “seems to make wholly incorrect assertions as to the nature and content of the standard, and is based on many errors and inaccuracies”, and suggesting that FERMA is promoting “disinformation”. Knight proceeded to go through each of FERMA's individual concerns and compare them with what the standard says, concluding that “in reality all the assertions in the FERMA position paper are baseless and, in fact, all of their concerns have already been addressed”. He urged FERMA associations to follow the lead of their Dutch and UK colleagues and become active members of the national mirror committees.

Not surprisingly, the next to step into the arena last month was BSI British Standards, the UK representative to ISO, basically backing ISO's stance. For example, it said that the proposed standard avoids adopting a “one size fits all” approach and stresses that stakeholders' needs and perceptions must be taken into account in both the development of the framework for risk management and in the undertaking of risk assessments.

The BSI British Standards risk management committee recently made available the draft for public comment of a UK risk management 'code of practice' which would sit alongside ISO 31000 (this is available for comment at

The battle cannot be entirely unexpected. Representatives of European risk management associations have disputed the need for an ISO standard since the idea was proposed a little over 10 years ago. Instead, they have promoted the idea of guidelines, which FERMA says “are, in ISO terminology, less stringent than standards”. In the meantime, a variety of standards or standard-like documents, have been developed and have received wide acceptance.