This means that an independent auditor has verified that the quality system at ISO Central Secretariat meets the standard's requirements which include, in particular, organizational processes in place to ensure customer satisfaction and continual improvement. In the case of ISO Central Secretariat, the "customer" is a worldwide membership of 142 national standards institutes and a network of 2 885 standards-developing technical bodies.

ISO, a non-governmental organization, is the one of the world's foremost developers of voluntary technical standards. It has published more than 13 500 since it began operations in 1947, covering almost all sectors of business and technology, although it is best known for the ISO 9000 series which is implemented by several hundred thousand organizations in 160 countries.

The Central Secretariat, which employs 165 people from 19 countries, has achieved ISO 9001:2000 certification for the full range of support services which it supplies to the organization's members and standards developers. These services include coordination of the standards-development programme, administration of voting on draft standards, the final editing and publication of standards (813 in 2001), and information, communication and public relations. The Central Secretariat was first certified - to ISO 9002:1994 - in May 1996 by the Swiss certification body, SQS, which also carried the certification to the revised ISO 9001, published in December 2000. The ISO 9001:2000 certificate, awarded on 2 May 2002, is valid up to and including 1 May 2005.

"Certification is not an ISO 9000 requirement," ISO's Acting Secretary-General, Dr. Christian J. Favre, pointed out. "The best reason for implementing ISO 9000 is to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your organization's business processes. The decision whether or not to have your quality system certified after an independent audit is one to be taken on business grounds - for example, if it is a customer requirement, or a regulatory one in your sector of activity.

"That said, many thousands of organizations around the world have chosen certification because of the perception that an independent confirmation of ISO 9000 conformity adds value. In the case of ISO Central Secretariat, our customers were not pushing us towards certification, but we were honour bound to take our own medecine and demonstrate independently that we were up to standard.

"Certification to ISO 9001:2000 is also a means for us to display a vote of confidence in the revised standard and a tribute to the hundreds of experts who worked so hard to develop it."

Organizations certified to the 1994 versions of ISO 9001, ISO 9002 and ISO 9003 have been given three years from the publication of ISO 9001:2000 - up to 15 December 2003 - to make the transition to the revised standard.

"We could therefore have delayed our own transition to ISO 9001:2000," said Dr. Favre, "but why wait to reap the benefits of the improved standard?"

ISO itself does not carry out certification and does not award ISO 9000 certificates. This is done independently of ISO by some 740 certification bodies active around the world. ISO does not control these bodies, although it does develop voluntary ISO/IEC Guides and Standards that encourage best practice and consistency in certification and related activities.