Global Partnerships Increase Adoption of Standards — and Grow Economies
ASTM International partners with organizations around the globe to further its mission of helping our world work better. From its collaboration with broad regional entities such as the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, to the formation of an international chapter in the United Arab Emirates, to a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) Program that recently welcomed its 118th member, ASTM’s global presence enables innovation.
Teresa Cendrowska, vice president of global cooperation at ASTM since 2007, has traveled the world meeting MoU representatives and attending industry and organization events, where she speaks about ASTM and its value in the marketplace. When Cendrowska began with ASTM, she worked in technical committee operations, where she gained extensive experience with committees, members, and standards development, before moving to global cooperation.
Cendrowska recently shared some of her knowledge and expertise as she spoke about the role of international standards developers like ASTM — and its partnerships — in today’s world, while looking ahead to how that role will continue to evolve in the future.
Q. What do you see as the role of standards development organizations in the world, and how do the partnerships you’ve helped ASTM form support that role?
A. Standards development organizations (SDOs) offer a pragmatic, globally embraced approach to formulating solutions. In this context, ASTM International offers a forum for impacted stakeholders with different views to present, debate, and arrive at solutions to challenges. Those challenges might pertain to quality, health, safety, environment, regulation, trade, or other aspects of the marketplace.
The partnerships that ASTM establishes with public and private entities in developed and transitioning economies advance mutual interests. The shared objectives can be broad, as in the case of promoting sanitation and hygiene or market access, but they can also be specific. Objectives that support the establishment of regional petroleum testing standards or promote additive manufacturing standards that can be referenced by regulators are two examples of this.
Regardless of where an economy is on the development continuum, ASTM standards and partnerships enable: 1) dialogue between the public and private sectors and 2) support for the use of high-quality, technically relevant solutions that establish and strengthen the ability of industries and governments to address market needs and challenges with global best practices and cutting-edge information.
Q. How would you describe your role at ASTM and that of the global cooperation department?
A. The global cooperation department is at the hub of a global community, connecting with our partners, who are primarily located in transitioning economies. These connections enable us to learn about stakeholder challenges and needs and to establish links to the amazing network of knowledge, experience, and technical resources that ASTM standards, services, and technical experts offer.
Global cooperation is a relatively new ASTM department. It was established in 2001, along with the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) Program, which forms the core of our work. An MoU creates a documented relationship between ASTM International and each of its 118 global partners, which include national and regional standardization bodies. The agreement offers three distinct benefits to the signatory: access to a full collection of ASTM standards, membership at no cost to any interested stakeholder within the boundaries of the nation, and access to procedural and technical capacity building.
While the MoU is the formal document, the global cooperation team, along with other ASTM staff and members, create the dynamic, personal connections that tangibly demonstrate ASTM’s support for a “development dimension” and the commitment to ASTM’s mission of meeting global societal needs. (The development dimension is one of the World Trade Organization principles for an international standards organization.)
Through our MoU activities, we’ve steadily built relationships and expanded awareness about the benefits of citing ASTM standards. We engage directly to support knowledge acquisition and capabilities that enable stakeholders in partner organizations to support their respective communities, improve their quality infrastructures, and access global markets.
Q. What partnerships can you point to as the biggest success stories over the years — both for ASTM and the partner organization?
A. Each MoU provides the opportunity for ASTM and the standards body partner to create success stories. With access to high-quality, globally relevant standards and technical expertise, the standards body partner increases the resources it can offer its public and private sector stakeholders in a range of industries. Partners have the ability to decide which ASTM standards are relevant to their needs, what markets they will address, and how to apply the content. When they reference, adopt, or use an ASTM standard as the basis of a national or regional standard, they are expediting the delivery of best practices that have benefited from global expert input and reflect current technology. They are also saving resources that can be allocated to other priorities.
When we sign an MoU, we remind our partner that the relationship is best when it is dynamic. There is great benefit to the exchange that takes place with the partner. We learn what works or needs to change and how we can better assist. In this regard, our capacity-building programs are a success. From virtual, one-hour training sessions on procedure or technical topics tailored to audience needs to independent and co-sponsored programs that have taken place in-house and on-site, these programs maximize success. The programs create an immediate and active dialogue that raises questions, identifies challenges, and expresses opinions.
It’s amazing to see how our capacity building has grown over the course of global cooperation’s existence and the number of participants, topics, and formats now involved. The range includes in-residence standards experts and technical visitors; delegations meeting at headquarters, committee weeks and member or customer locations; joint programs delivered with international partners such as USAID [U.S. Agency for International Development], International Finance Corporation, and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation in-country; and an expanding number of virtual sessions with new or seasoned stakeholders. Regardless of the venue, it’s the dialogue, the opportunity to directly exchange information and to have all voices heard, that is the real success!
Q. What is the relationship of global cooperation with the World Trade Organization (WTO) principles for international SDOs?
A. We’ve learned from our industry and government partners around the world that they want to use standards that reflect certain key attributes in support of their business and policy objectives, to facilitate trade, and improve efficiencies. Many of these features will likely sound familiar to readers of Standardization News: transparency, openness, consensus, relevance, and avoiding duplication. Not surprisingly, these criteria match the WTO principles for international SDOs.
I mentioned the remaining WTO principle – development dimension – earlier. This principle indicates that international SDOs such as ASTM remove barriers or constraints so that developing economies have access to standards and the ability to participate in their development and influence their content. Global cooperation’s initiatives and activities, together with the MoU program and the benefits it provides, support this principle.
Global cooperation has been very different during the pandemic. How has your work and that of your department been impacted and what challenges have you faced?
Without a doubt, travel and health restrictions required us to engage virtually. The limitations presented challenges and benefits that surely mirror those that every ASTM stakeholder has encountered. But the same restrictions also revealed a silver lining. More partners than ever secured and embraced the tools that facilitate virtual connections. We learned how to support simultaneous interpretation in the virtual environment, and physical distances shrank, enabling more frequent conversations. A few challenges remain: virtual tools do not minimize time-zone differences, which are magnified when connecting across a wide geographical area, and impromptu conversation is still limited. The global cooperation team is looking forward to returning to in-person sessions.
Q. Global cooperation has been very different during the pandemic. How has your work and that of your department been impacted and what challenges have you faced?
A. Without a doubt, travel and health restrictions required us to engage virtually. The limitations presented challenges and benefits that surely mirror those that every ASTM stakeholder has encountered. But the same restrictions also revealed a silver lining. More partners than ever secured and embraced the tools that facilitate virtual connections. We learned how to support simultaneous interpretation in the virtual environment, and physical distances shrank, enabling more frequent conversations. A few challenges remain: virtual tools do not minimize time-zone differences, which are magnified when connecting across a wide geographical area, and impromptu conversation is still limited. The global cooperation team is looking forward to returning to in-person sessions.
Q. On a personal note, what drew you to the field of standards and standards development?
A. My professional encounter with standards and standards development was impromptu. I hadn’t mapped out a career as a “standards professional.” An industrial engineer by training, I learned that the “process” of standards development and the technical aspects of a committee’s work were interesting and also familiar in a way.
But in coming to ASTM, I began working with a wide range of technical committees and was tasked with a variety of assignments. No day was routine. I enjoyed the opportunity to learn continuously. The variety and learning aspects continue to be a part of my work in global cooperation, which also incorporates my interest in different cultures. Finally, there’s the commitment of the staff and members to delivering their best efforts and the satisfaction of knowing our work makes a difference around the world. ■