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Unpacking ISO/IEC 42001: A New Era of Responsible AI Management


Manager, Artificial Intelligence | INQ Consulting


In the rapidly evolving landscape of artificial intelligence (AI), the introduction of the ISO/IEC 42001 standard (“the standard”) marks a significant milestone. As discussed in INQ’s latest webinar with Marta Janczarski, project editor for the ISO/IEC 42001 standard, this standard is a game-changer for organizations seeking to navigate the complexities of AI responsibly.


What is the ISO/IEC 42001 Standard?

ISO/IEC 42001, also known as the AI Management System Standard (“AIMS”), provides a framework for establishing, implementing, maintaining, and improving responsible AI management systems. Its comprehensive approach enables organizations to ensure their AI systems are developed and used in alignment with ethical principles, human rights, and values, fostering robustness, reliability, security, and safety.


The standard includes the following components:


  • Essential Requirements: These form the backbone of the management system standard, ensuring consistency with other types of management systems like ISO 9001 (Quality Management) and ISO/IEC 27001 (Information Security).

  • Reference Control Set and Implementation Guidance: The standard offers technical and organizational measures to mitigate identified AI risks.

  • Additional Information: The standard also includes resources for integrating AIMS with other management system standards.


Who is the intended audience?

The flexibility and comprehensive nature of ISO/IEC 42001 make it relevant for a wide range of stakeholders. It applies to organizations of all sizes and sectors involved in designing, developing, deploying, operating, or using AI systems. The standard is especially pertinent for managing high-risk AI systems, even for SMEs and micro-organizations.


Additionally, ISO/IEC 42001 is designed for a common approach, irrespective of the stakeholder's role. Whether a developer, user, or deployer, everyone needs to ensure checks and balances for responsible AI usage. The controls are written to apply to all, emphasizing the need for compliance across the board.


How does the standard align with legal requirements, such as the EU AI Act?

While ISO/IEC 42001 isn’t built explicitly for any specific market like the EU, it aims to be a helpful tool for compliance with various regulatory needs. Its flexibility and comprehensive nature make it adaptable to regulatory and market needs, including potential alignment with laws like the EU AI Act.


Will organizations be able to certify against the standard?

Yes. A unique feature of ISO/IEC 42001 is the possibility of certification against the standard. The accompanying standard, ISO/IEC 42006 (“Requirements for bodies providing audit and certification of artificial intelligence management systems”), is currently under development and will set forth requirements for audit and certification bodies.


Is it worth becoming an early adopter?

Adopting ISO/IEC 42001 early, even for organizations beginning their AI journey, is beneficial. It provides a comprehensive framework for AI policies, offers guidance on terminology and strategy, and aligns with the direction of evolving AI laws. This early adoption can facilitate smoother transitions into compliant and responsible AI practices.


Looking Ahead

To effectively establish an AI governance program in line with the ISO/IEC 42001 standard, organizations could consider adopting the following steps:


  1. Formulate a clear AI policy and set specific AI objectives to showcase leadership and a commitment to ethical AI practices.

  2. Define and document the roles, responsibilities, and levels of authority for AI governance within the organization.

  3. Develop a systematic process for assessing AI risks and impacts, complemented by detailed AI risk treatment and remediation plans.

  4. Set up robust mechanisms for continuous monitoring, measurement, analysis, and evaluation of AI performance, incorporating relevant metrics and KPIs.

  5. Conduct periodic management reviews to ensure the AI governance program remains suitable, adequate, and effective.


In conclusion, ISO/IEC 42001 stands as a testament to the global commitment to responsible AI. Its structured approach, flexibility, and comprehensive coverage make it an indispensable tool for organizations navigating the complexities of AI governance. As AI continues to reshape our world, adhering to standards like ISO/IEC 42001 will ensure these technologies are developed and used ethically, responsibly, and for the benefit of all.


Not sure where to get started? INQ’s portfolio of AI services is customized to fit your specific needs and get you AI-ready. To learn more, visit our website at www.inq.consulting or contact us at ai@inq.consulting. To keep up with the latest in AI news, subscribe to the Think INQ newsletter.

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