ISO is an abbreviation for the International Organization for Standardization based in Geneva. This organisation issues international standards called ISO.
The certificate documents compliance of a management system implemented in the company with requirements of a particular ISO standard.
Most common motivation for ISO implementation and certification:
- acquiring greater market share through the competitive advantage of a better image
- often, it is a prerequisite for winning an important customer
- competitors have a certificate, using it as a competitive advantage
- a prerequisite for public contracts
- ensuring verifiable legal compliance
- making implementation and system processes in the company more transparent and stabilized
- reducing the need of operative interventions and problem solving
- defining responsibilities and competencies within the company
- preventing damages and financial losses
- increasing the companys value
Certificates for a limited time period, usually for three years, are issued by an accredited certification body. In order to keep the certificate valid, a periodic audit is performed, typically once a year. If fundamental deviations from the standard requirements are discovered, the extreme measure of the certificate withdrawal can be applied. This is a very rare, exceptional and unpleasant situation. Therefore, when a company decides to implement and follow an ISO standard, it is a voluntary commitment to continuous improvement and development, which is worth the company’s effort.
Accreditation is the approved recognition of a certification body to perform certifications against different standards. Every country has its own regulated accreditation body. These bodies issue accreditations to certification bodies such as URS Certification. Accreditation is achieved by demonstrating prescribed controls and systems are in place. These requirements are also defined by international standards (for systems certification this is ISO 17021).
Once accredited, certification bodies can offer accredited certification against standards such as ISO 9001 to any organisation that receives a successful audit.
It gives value and credence to the certification. An accredited certificate is usually the only type accepted in tenders for new business.
The world’s first Accreditation Body was in the UK. Aptly named the United Kingdom Accreditation Service, more commonly referred to as UKAS. As the cradle of standardisation, certificates issued with the UKAS accreditation mark are the most prestigious and recognised all over the world. This is partly due to the rigorous verification of compliance with procedures performed by its approved certification bodies. UKAS is known to be uncompromising in this respect and can readily revoke a certification body’s accreditation.
Thanks to the International Accreditation Forum (IAF), accreditations are mutually recognized by member countries. There are currently no formal differences between accreditations although in terms of trouble-free acceptance at international markets, traditional countries that were among the first to issue accreditations are widely acknowledged. A list of each country’s Accreditation Body can be viewed at www.iaf.nu.
Yes, it can. This usually happens when an organisation becomes dissatisfied with the service provided by a certification or the fee it charges. Perhaps the quality of the audits or auditors is not as would be expected, additional ‘extra’ fees are being added to invoices, or the certificate does not display a valid accreditation mark? For companies wishing to enter international markets or win an important client, an accreditation mark, such as UKAS, can play a crucial role.