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What is conformity assessment?

Conformity assessment is the process used to show that a product, service or system meets specified requirements. These requirements are likely to be contained in an ISO standard. But, ISO itself does not perform conformity assessments.

Showing that a product, service or system meets certain requirements has a number of benefits:

The main forms of conformity assessment are certification, inspection and testing. Although testing is the most widely used, certification is the best known.

Looking to get certified?

ISO doesn’t provide certification or conformity assessment. You’ll need to contact an external certification body for that. Read more about certification and how to find a certification body.

Resources for conformity assessment

We have many standards related to performing conformity assessment as well as many other useful publications and resources. Access resources for conformity assessment.

hand that holds a sheet

Certification

Certification is the provision by an independent body of written assurance (a certificate) that the product, service or system in question meets specific requirements. Certification is also known as third party conformity assessment.

Many companies and organizations decide to get certified to one of ISO’s management system standards, such as ISO 9001. This is a way of showing outsiders that the organisation has an effective quality management system in place. Read more about getting certified to ISO’s management system standards.

test tubes

Testing

Testing is the determination of one or more of an object or product’s characteristics and is usually performed by a laboratory.

For example, many people have their blood tested which involves analysing the blood against a number of characteristics such as whether it shows the presence of a disease, or genetic disorder.

CASCO has developed a number of standards that laboratories can follow to help ensure that their results can be trusted.

foreman inspected the wooden structure of the building

Inspection

Inspection describes the regular checking of a product to make sure it meets specified criteria.

Fire extinguishers, for example, should be regularly inspected to make sure they remain safe and functional. Lifts and other machinery also need to undergo regular inspection to make sure they are safe for use.

CASCO has developed a number of standards that inspection bodies can follow to help ensure that we can trust their work.  

Harmonization of conformity assessment

ISO has produced standards to help make conformity assessment activities as uniform as possible. These standards explain what a body needs to do to be seen as capable of performing conformity assessments such as laboratory testing, inspection or management system certification.

globe-puzzle

The benefits of harmonizing conformity assessment activities are numerous. Among other things,it helps facilitate global trade. For example, a country exporting cheese to another country sends the product with a test report that classifies the cheese. If the importing country does not have confidence in the test report, it will have to do its own testing, wasting valuable time and money. ISO’s work on the harmonization of conformity assessment activities helps raise confidence and therefore facilitates the movement of goods across national borders.

Read more about ISO’s commitment to facilitating trade.

A way to further increase confidence in the conformity assessments activities between countries is to make a formal agreement called a Mutual Recognition Agreement or Arrangement (MRA). This is an agreement between two countries to recognise the results of each other’s testing, inspection, certification or accreditation. MRAs help reduce the multiple conformity assessment activities that products, services and systems need to undergo when they are traded across borders.

Read more about MRAs in ISO/IEC Guide 68:2002

CASCO

CASCO is the ISO committee that develops policy and publishes standards related to conformity assessment. Read more about CASCO.

Are you a member of CASCO?

Tools and resources for CASCO members can be found here (a log in will be required).