A new ISO/IEC standard defines requirements for suppliers (including manufacturers) to meet when they make formal claims that products, services, systems, processes or materials conform to relevant standards, regulations or other specifications.

Claims that meet the requirements of ISO/IEC 17050 are expected to inspire greater confidence among governments, regulatory authorities, consumers and end users than claims without such backing. This is because the standard represents an international consensus on good practice and establishes a benchmark that can be applied in all business sectors and in all countries.

ISO/IEC 17050 offers a framework for what is designated technically as a "supplier's declaration of conformity (SDoC)". An SDoC is one of the ways in which a supplier may seek to demonstrate conformity. This might be required, for example, by health, safety or environmental regulations - or is desirable because conformity gives potential purchasers greater confidence.

Other ways are by inviting the customer to verify conformity, or by engaging a specialized independent body, such as a testing laboratory or inspection service, to issue a certificate of conformity (e.g. product certification). An SDoC is less time-consuming than either of these options, which means that products can be developed and brought to market faster. It is also cheaper and the economies made by the supplier can be passed on to the customer.

The publication of ISO/IEC 17050 puts at the disposal of suppliers and manufacturers an SDoC methodology with greater transparency, added rigour and globally harmonized practice - which is likely to increase the use of this option in world trade. While streamlining the conformity assessment process, it does not remove the obligation of suppliers and manufacturers to conform to relevant regulations and other legal requirements - which is likely to encourage its acceptance by authorities, as well as the confidence of customers.

The new standard is in two parts. Part 1 specifies the general requirements for an SDoC. Its intent is to increase the value of an SDoC by establishing a clearly understandable International Standard for this conformity assessment option, and also to encourage its use by making the SDoC more acceptable to government and regulatory institutions. Part 1 includes a sample SDoC.

Part 2 is on supporting documentation to substantiate an SDoC, for example, results of tests carried out by the supplier or an independent body in order to meet legal requirements. Again, the intent is to encourage acceptance of an SDoC by customers and authorities.

ISO/IEC 17050 was developed by Working Group (WG) 24 of ISO/CASCO, Committee on conformity assessment. WG 24 Convenor, Joel Urman, comments: "The cost and time savings that result from SDoC unquestionably benefit suppliers of products, processes, services and systems. SDoC also significantly benefits their customers and all those who use and need their offerings."

ISO/IEC 17050-1:2004, Conformity assessment - Supplier's declaration of conformity - Part 1: General requirements, costs 47 Swiss francs. ISO/IEC 17050-2:2004, Conformity assessment - Supplier's declaration of conformity - Part 2: Supporting documentation, costs 34 Swiss francs. Both are available from ISO national member institutes (see the complete list with contact details) and from ISO Central Secretariat.