What Is ISO 42001? A Detailed Guide

A Voluntary Standard

Certifiable & Auditable

Industry Agnostic

A Path To Operationalization

AI for Regulatory Compliance

FAQs About ISO/IEC 42001

Steps to Achieve Compliance


High-Level Summary

ISO 42001 is a voluntary standard that provides a framework for establishing, implementing, maintaining, and continually improving the management of AI systems in organizations.

This framework emphasizes responsibility and accountability and addresses the specific challenges and opportunities AI technology presents.

As a certifiable and auditable standard, ISO 42001 enables organizations to demonstrate their responsible training, testing, and use of AI.

As a “process standard,” its goal is to define best practices for AI governance and provide a pathway for organizations to operationalize them.

Currently, compliance with the standard is voluntary and opt-in.

Organizations that wish to demonstrate sound AI management practices can follow the standard and seek certification.

However, governments, like the EU, with its recently passed EU AI Act, may require ISO 42001 compliance in certain cases, such as the procurement of AI by government agencies.

If this occurs, ISO 42001 compliance could become a baseline requirement for selling AI, similar to SOC2 and ISO 27001 for information security.

Who Can Use ISO 42001?

The standard broadly considers any organization developing, providing, or using AI systems. The framework is industry-agnostic and can be applied by organizations of all types and sizes.

Compared to ISO 23894, published in February 2023, ISO 42001 is broader in scope. ISO 23894 only focuses on AI risk management, whereas ISO 42001 is focused on comprehensive organization-level management of AI, which includes more than risk management.

Compliance Requirements

ISO documents are not publicly released for free and must be purchased from ISO.

Broadly, however, it covers the following:

  • Policies and procedures for AI governance
    • Policies should define and explain roles and responsibilities
    • The organization has some flexibility in defining the program based on its circumstances
  • Evaluating the impact of AI systems
    • Risk assessment and mitigation
    • Performance evaluation
  • Managing the lifecycle of AI systems and related data assets
    • Inventorying
    • Workflows and change control
    • Data management
  • Program Operations
    • Sufficient documentation and recordkeeping
    • Planning and resourcing
    • Staff should have context and training
  • Ensuring diversity and inclusion are considered 
  • The organization’s AI governance practice
    • Senior leadership buy-in
    • Internal audit function
    • Continuous monitoring and improvement of the program

Non-Compliance Penalties

As ISO 42001 is a process standard, there are no penalties for non-compliance. Adherence is entirely voluntary, and there are no plans to make it a regulation.

Organizations aiming to showcase robust AI management practices can adopt the standard and pursue certification.

However, certain governments might mandate ISO 42001 compliance for specific scenarios, such as when procuring AI technologies for government use. Should this happen, ISO 42001 compliance could become a fundamental requirement for selling AI, akin to how SOC2 and ISO 27001 are essential for information security.

Who Is “ISO”?

The full name of the standard is ISO/IEC 42001, which means ISO and IEC co-developed this standard.

ISO stands for International Organization for Standardization, a non-governmental organization that provides guidelines for organizations to achieve globally recognized standards.

International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) is a not-for-profit organization that creates and publishes international standards for electrical, electronic, and related technologies.

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