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New ISO/IEC standards to increase confidence in audits and certification

by Maria Lazarte on
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Demonstrating that a company complies with International Standards is one way of creating confidence among regulators, consumers, suppliers and other stakeholders. But how do we know that a certificate granted by one certification body is that same as that offered by another? Two new International Standards address this problem by providing harmonized and effective best practice for certification bodies and auditors around the world:

  • ISO/IEC 17065:2012, Conformity assessment – Requirements for bodies certifying products, processes and services

  • ISO/IEC TS 17021-2:2012, Conformity assessment – Requirements for bodies providing audit and certification of management systems – Part 2: Competence requirements for auditing and certification of environmental management systems

Product certification

Companies can use product certification to show that a product, service or process has been inspected, tested and approved. ISO/IEC 17065 ensures that certification is carried out in a fair and capable manner.

Originally known as ISO/IEC Guide 65:1996, the document is extensively used by certification bodies to demonstrate that they are competent, impartial and reliable. This new version has been fully revised with more and better terms and definitions, resources, and guidance. Important requirements, like impartiality, have been strengthened, and some new specifications have been added.

Christian Priller, Convenor of the ISO/CASCO working group that developed this standard says, “We are very excited about the new ISO/IEC 17065. Product certification is perhaps the most visible type of certification because it is usually accompanied by a mark that is recognized and appreciated by regulators, consumers and other stakeholders. It is therefore crucial that we ensure the reliability of these claims. I am confident that the new ISO/IEC 17065 will increase trust and comparability of product certification around world.”

Certification bodies accredited to the old ISO/IEC Guide 65 will have 3 years to comply with the new ISO/IEC 17065.

Personnel competence

The number of organizations looking to certify their environmental management system (EMS) is growing – in 2011 alone there was an increase of 4.5 %. Regulators, consumers and other stakeholders rely on these claims when making decisions about a company and their products. Ensuring the competence of personnel involved in auditing and certification is therefore crucial.

Technical specification ISO/IEC TS 17021-2 outlines the knowledge and skills that personnel involved in environmental management systems certification should possess. It was developed to complement the generic guidance included in ISO/IEC 17021:2011, Conformity assessment – Requirements for bodies providing audit and certification of management systems.

Randy Dougherty, Co-convenor of the ISO/CASCO working group that developed the TS says, “Auditing and certifying an environmental management system requires different knowledge from other management systems. For example, you need to be familiar with environmental terminology, metrics and monitoring techniques. ISO/IEC TS 17021-2 identifies the specific knowledge needed to audit and certify an environmental management system.

“It is the first in a planned series of technical specifications for particular management systems. Its use will reassure organizations, regulators, customers and the public that a certified EMS truly achieves its objectives.”

ISO/IEC 17065:2012, Conformity assessment – Requirements for bodies certifying products, processes and services, and ISO/IEC TS 17021-2:2012, Conformity assessmentRequirements for bodies providing audit and certification of management systems – Part 2: Competence requirements for auditing and certification of environmental management systems, were developed by the ISO Committee on conformity assessment (ISO/CASCO). ISO/IEC 17065 and ISO/IEC TS 17021-2 cost 122 and 66 Swiss francs respectively. They are available from ISO national member institutes (see the complete list with contact details) and from ISO Central Secretariat through the ISO Store or by contacting the Marketing, Communication and Information department.