European and Global Standards and Norms

European and global standards and norms are usually technical regulations and guidelines that are mainly defined by international organisations to regulate or harmonise certain products, services, or processes. They ensure the quality and safety of products and services and preserve a uniform level of performance.

European standards are determined by the European Union (EU) or by European standardisation organisations (see below) and apply in all EU member states. Global standards are set by international organisations and apply worldwide. The best-known international organisation in this area is the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO).

The Importance of Standards and Norms

It is important for you to find out about important standards or norms if you are active in Europe or internationally. You are often already obligated to comply with relevant standards in a national context because they have been incorporated into national laws or regulations. However, this does not always apply. There are certain areas in which international standards are formulated as guidelines that are observed by a large number of those active in an international context.

European and global standards and norms are important parameters for your international activities. On the one hand, they enable better international cooperation because they are understood and used as a common ‘language’ by many different people. In addition to this, they regulate – often below the threshold of stricter legal regulation – to a certain extent the room for manoeuvre on the European stage and further afield.

The importance of professional project management methods, in particular for a process of Europeanisation, means that the topic of ‘internationally recognised project management methods’ is dealt with in a separate article. You can find this information here.

European Pillar of Social Rights

The European Pillar of Social Rights is intended to help strengthen social cohesion in the EU and promote sustainable development. It is a framework of social rights and benefits that was adopted by the European Union (EU) in 2017.

The European Pillar of Social Rights defines minimum standards for social rights that should apply in all EU member states to ensure a high level of protection for social rights across the EU. It comprises 20 basic principles in the areas of labour, health, housing, education and inclusion, and contains a list of specific social rights that should be guaranteed in all EU member states, such as the right to fair pay, the right to healthcare, the right to education and the right to housing.

ESG (Environment, Social and Governance) Criteria

ESG stands for Environment, Social and Governance and refers to the criteria used by organisations to assess their performance in terms of its sustainability and social responsibility. These criteria include environmental impact, social impact on employees and the quality and transparency of corporate governance.

There are several reasons why ESG is becoming increasingly important for organisations:
  • Risk management: organisations that ignore ESG criteria are more vulnerable to environmental crises, legal problems and reputational damage.
  • Investors and financing: investors increasingly value sustainable practices and prioritise companies that take ESG seriously. ESG compliance facilitates access to funding and capital.
  • Market and customer requirements: consumers favour products and services from companies that support socially and environmentally conscious practices. ESG can strengthen your brand reputation and improve customer loyalty.
  • Regulatory requirements: more and more regulators are demanding transparency and reporting on ESG factors, prompting organisations to integrate these aspects into their business strategy.

ESG is generally growing in importance since it not only documents ethical behaviour, but also offers economic benefits by making organisations more resilient, improving their risk profile and promoting long-term growth.

In the EU, ESG criteria are closely linked to the so-called EU taxonomy. This is an important instrument used by the European Union to classify economic activities by their sustainability. EU taxonomy is also intended to help increase investment in the projects and activities required to achieve the objectives of the European Green Deal.

Sustainable Development Goals – SDGs

The UN‘s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a series of 17 global development goals that were adopted by the United Nations in 2015. They act as guidelines for international development policy and are intended to help combat poverty, hunger and injustice while protecting the earth’s natural resources.

The SDGs aim to improve living conditions for people around the world and promote sustainable development. Comprising 17 goals and 169 targets in the areas of economy, society, environment and peace, they are to be achieved by 2030.

The importance of the SDGs for organisations in Europe is constantly increasing. More and more EU funding applications, for example, are explicitly asking about the contribution of the proposed projects to the 17 global development goals.

Competences and Qualifications

In both the EU and globally, there are various instruments that can be used to compare or measure competences and qualifications. These instruments provide a helpful orientation that extends beyond educational institutions.

The International Standard Classification of Occupations is one of the most important international classifications created by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). ISCO is an instrument for categorising occupations into clearly defined groups according to the associated tasks and duties.

ESCO is the multilingual European classification for skills, competences, qualifications and occupations. By providing a common reference terminology, ESCO helps improve communication between the world of work and that of education and training.

The e-Competence Framework, developed by the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN, see below), distinguished between 41 competences for ICT professionals. It creates a common language for competences, skills and proficiency levels in this sector across Europe. The competences in the e-CF are organised into five ICT domains and linked to the European Qualifications Framework (EQF, see below). The e-CF is an important source for the further development of ESCO (see above).

The European Qualifications Framework allows vocational qualifications and competences to be compared across Europe. It defines a total of eight educational levels that cover the entire spectrum of possible educational outcomes – from basic general knowledge and skills (level 1) to mastery of a highly specialised field of knowledge (level 8). The upgrade2europe curriculum has been developed based on the European Qualifications Framework and is available for download here. You can find further information about the EQF in this document.

The European Credit System for Vocational Education and Training is a system for accumulating, transferring and recognising credit points in initial and ongoing vocational education and training. Initiated by the European Commission, ECVET aims to promote transparency, mobility and permeability across national borders and between educational sectors. Competences that learners acquire in one area of vocational education and training are assessed and documented so that they can also be recognised in other educational contexts.

The EU’s European Entrepreneurship Competence Framework defines 15 entrepreneurial competences. These include creativity, risk-taking, problem-solving and other skills that serve to promote entrepreneurial thinking and behaviour in various areas, from education to the world of work. These make EntreComp a guide for developing and assessing entrepreneurial skills.

The EU’s Digital Competence Framework is a tool for describing digital competences. It defines skills in five areas: information and data, communication and collaboration, digital content creation, security and problem solving. DigComp supports the development and assessment of digital skills for people of all ages and in different contexts.


The best-known organisations in this field are a treasure trove for key global or European standards and norms.

The most important global organisation is the International Organisation for Standardisation. ISO is an independent international organisation that develops and publishes standards for industry, technology and business. It was founded in 1947 and is based in Geneva (Switzerland). The organisation currently has members in over 160 countries.

ISO is known for developing standards in a wide range of areas, including quality management, environmental management, safety management and much more. ISO standards are voluntary, but they are often used by governments, companies and other organisations as specifications for their activities and products. ISO aims to enable cooperation between nations and increase the efficiency of processes and products by developing globally uniform standards and norms.

Many ISO standards are also used within the EU. To get a comprehensive overview of standards and norms within the EU, you should familiarise yourself with the three central EU players in this area: CEN, CENELEC and ETSI.

The European Committee for Standardisation is a European organisation that develops standards for products, services and systems in order to promote interoperability, safety and efficiency in various industries.

The European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardisation is a European body that develops standards in the field of electrical engineering to ensure safety, interoperability and conformity in Europe.

The European Telecommunications Standards Institute is an organisation that develops European and global standards for the telecommunications and information technology sectors to promote interoperability and innovation in these industries.

Useful Links and Further Information

Through your Europeanisation activities you should gain a comprehensive overview of the standards and norms that apply in your area.

You can find further helpful articles and tips in this upgrade2europe learning tool, in our learning videos and in our upgrade2europe handbook. In the handbook, for example, you will find an introduction to the so-called PESTLE analysis, which you can use to systematically analyse the external conditions of your process of Europeanisation in six areas. An assessment of the opportunities and risks arising from existing or expected future standards and norms is an important aspect of the PESTLE analysis. You can use our self-assessment tool if you would like to immediately check online to what extent your organisation is well positioned for Europe.