The eagerly awaited joint auditing standard for both quality and environmental management systems has just been published by ISO.

ISO 19011:2002, Guidelines for quality and/or environmental management systems auditing, replaces six older standards in the ISO 9000 (quality) and ISO 14000 (environment) families. Its use will give organizations a more integrated and balanced view of their operations, making it an outstanding tool for continuous improvement towards business excellence. It is also aimed to help user organizations optimize their management systems, facilitate the integration of quality and environmental management, and, in allowing single audits of both systems, save money and decrease disruption of work units being audited.

ISO 19011, which is available in English and in French, costs 110 Swiss francs and can be purchased from ISO national member institutes (see complete list), or from ISO Central Secretariat.

Both the ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 families of International Standards emphasize the importance of audits as a management tool for monitoring and verifying the effective implementation of an organization's policy for quality and/or environmental management. Audits are also an essential part of activities such as external certification/registration and of supply chain evaluation and surveillance.

ISO 19011 provides guidance on the conduct of internal or external quality and/or environmental management system audits, as well as on the management of audit programmes. Intended users of this International Standard include auditors, organizations implementing quality and/or environmental management systems, and organizations involved in auditor certification or training, certification/registration of management systems, and accreditation or standardization in the area of conformity assessment.

ISO 19011 was developed by a joint working group (JWG) set up by two subcommittees of the ISO technical committees ISO/TC 176, Quality management and quality assurance, and ISO/TC 207, Environmental management.

The new guidelines provide a uniform approach for the auditing of environmental (EMS) and quality management systems (QMS). As many organizations implement both EMS and QMS – either as separate systems, or as an integrated management system – they want to harmonize and, where possible, combine the auditing of these systems.

As far as external audits are concerned, ISO 19011 also provides certification/registration bodies with a uniform approach and will facilitate the combined external assessment of management systems. ISO 19011 is thus serving a real market need for better harmonization of practices in the quality and environmental management arenas.

An important improvement of the new guideline is related to auditor qualifications. The standard recognizes more explicitly than the previous auditing guidelines that the competence of the audit team and individual auditors varies according to the nature, scope and complexity of the audit and that it is not possible to set uniform competence criteria which are applicable to all kinds of situations. Therefore, ISO 19011 provides a framework that enables organizations to set their own competence requirements and related auditor evaluation processes.

A last improvement is the combination of the descriptions of the management of audit programmes and the conduct of individual audits in a single guideline. This combination emphasizes the relationship between the two and makes it clear that the quality of individual audits depends, among other factors, on the quality of the supporting audit programme.

ISO 19011 replaces ISO 10011-1, ISO 10011-2 and ISO 10011-3 in the ISO 9000 family and ISO 14010, ISO 14011 and ISO 14012 in the ISO 14000 family. It also completes the ISO 9000 "core series", also comprising the revised ISO 9000, ISO 9001 and ISO 9004, published in December 2000.