One of the many questions that are often asked, is “How do I choose an ISO Certifier, after all, what’s the difference between them all?”
There any many certifiers available that say they can do the job. Maybe they can, maybe they cannot. So how do you know and how do you choose between them?
The first and key difference is between those certifiers that are accredited by UKAS (the UK Accreditation Service which has been appointed to this role by the ISO body itself) and those certifiers that are not accredited by UKAS. There are over 200 certifiers in the UK already accredited by UKAS. To have a UKAS accredited certifier for an ISO system means that you gain the full benefits of the global recognition given to the ISO standards. Non-‐accredited certifiers are not illegal and many may be good, but if you use them, you cannot say that you are “ISO certified” but that you have “installed an ISO system”. You need to determine whether this is an important distinction and if you are being pressured by customers to get the ISO system, you will need to take their views into account. This stance is formally reiterated within the UK’s Governmental position:
“The UK government expects UK based conformity assessment bodies (among other things) to seek accreditation from the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS)”
Certification through an Accredited Certifier ensures:
1. Mutual recognition and market access – conforming to the correct approach ensures that others organisations, whether in the UK or abroad, are able to respect your certification to the full – knowing that it is fully compliant to the ISO regime.
2. Due Diligence and Confidence – in the event of legal action, the fact that you have a certification from an accredited body gives greater credence to your actions and intents – thereby enhancing your defence.
3. Impartiality ad Suitability – an accredited certifier is not and cannot be swayed by political and/or commercial interest, as the requirements for all accredited certifiers are common across the globe thus disregarding external pressures.
Within the wide range of UKAS accredited certifiers, there are some that are almost household names (such as BSi – the British Standards Institute). There are others that are almost unheard of as they operate in specialised areas or are simply small and new. Whatever their size or level of renown, they are obliged to fulfil the same requirements by virtue of the accreditation system. This means that the client is certified can move from one accredited certifier to another without losing the certification. If they had used a non-‐UKAS accredited certifier, then should they wish to change certifier, they would have to start all over again.
Given that attaining accreditation to UKAS is not something that comes easily or which does not require the demonstration of clear competence, experience and technical knowledge therefore, the fact that a certifier is unknown should not stand against them as being a choice as long as the company they chose is accredited by UKAS.
Organisations wanting certification have a range of reasons. If being recognised as being certified is a prime driver, then they may wish to choose one of the better-‐known Certifiers. Alternatively, if they want a more cost-effective and faster certification process (as the larger certifiers tend to get booked up some way ahead and the smaller ones tend to be more flexible), one of the smaller certifiers may suit better. Remember the larger the certifier the more expensive they tend to be and the less flexible they will be regarding the timing of assessments.