The Importance of Being Certified by an Accredited Certification Body
When an organization is considering ISO certification for the first time, one of the first questions that arises is the role of an accredited certification body in the process. First, your organization cannot be certified directly by an accreditation body. Instead, the accreditation body certifies your certification body to ensure that they are fair and thorough when they audit and issue certificates to your business. While many certification bodies claim to offer certification, only select organizations, like NQA, hold accreditation with a local accreditation body — such as UKAS in the UK or ANAB in the USA.
If your organization needs certification, an accredited certification holds higher significance to your stakeholders and clients. If you need a certificate for regulatory purposes, accredited certification is required. Let's talk more about accreditation, why your certification body needs it, and the importance of being certified by an accredited certification body.
Who is UKAS?
UKAS is the acronym for the United Kingdom Accreditation Service. It's the only accreditation body the UK government authorizes to assess certification bodies like NQA. Their goal is to serve both the UK's and the world's standards for quality infrastructure using their independence and expertise to evaluate other organizations. Ultimately, their role as an accreditation body instills trust and confidence in everyday products and services through their independent evaluation of certification bodies. Besides accrediting certification bodies, UKAS accredits many types of conformity assessments. The company evaluates testing and inspection procedures alongside the verification and validation of claims.
What is ANAB?
ANAB stands for the ANSI National Accreditation Board, which is the largest accreditation body serving North America. Like UKAS, ANAB is a recognized authority with the power to accredit certification bodies, including NQA. While several other accreditation bodies exist for businesses in this region, ANAB is highly respected worldwide. ANAB accreditations are often considered equivalent to UKAS accreditations alongside some accreditations in other countries.
What is their Role in the Certification Process?
If you are a business owner or leader seeking to be certified to ISO standards or other national or international industry standards, it's essential to understand the role accreditation bodies play in the process. For example, consider that the International Organization of Standards (ISO) does not issue certifications themselves. They write the standards, which third-party certification providers then use to assess businesses like yours.
While third-party companies do the certifying, no legal requirements regulate these companies. That's where an accreditation body's role comes into play. Accreditation bodies, such as UKAS and ANAB, are organizations that independently evaluate and accredit certification providers. They verify that the certification bodies operate according to international standards. While you can get certified by any certification body, your certification means a lot more when the body that issues it is accredited.
Therefore, the role of UKAS, ANAB and other accreditation bodies is to bring reliability and applicability to your company's certification. They ensure that NQA and other certification bodies apply the rigorous standards the world expects of us. That way, your certification holds more value to your customers, regulators or others who look for certification.
What is the Importance of UKAS and Accreditation? What is the Importance of Accredited Certification?
When you choose to get certified to an ISO or another international standard, it paves the way for many opportunities. Many clients look for certification to verify your competence, and both governmental and nongovernmental clients may require a valid certification as a condition for awarding a contract to your organization. Complying with international standards takes a considerable investment of time and resources. Once your organization aligns with your chosen standards' requirements, you want to be certified by an internationally recognized body. This measure ensures that any client requiring the certification recognizes yours as valid.
According to UKAS, accreditation is a formal recognition of a certification body's integrity, impartiality and competence. Certification through a UKAS-accredited certification body opens your company to new opportunities from even the most discerning clients. Since both UKAS and ANAB are internationally recognized, you can trust that businesses around the world see your certification as valid. You also show the government and any potential clients that you take the standards seriously.
Essentially, accredited certification shows that your auditors apply incredible rigor to see that your organization aligns with the standard. Those auditors also regularly check in on you to ensure continued compliance. When your auditors and certification issuer are themselves held to the high standards of an accreditation body like UKAS/ANAB, your certification is more trustworthy and meaningful.
Earning accredited certification is so important because:
- It provides proof of the rigor, competence, integrity and independence of the issuing certification body.
- UKAS is recognized worldwide and ensures that all accredited certification bodies follow the same processes no matter where the certification body is based.
- When particular countries require certification for regulatory compliance, they look for accredited certification.
- When companies achieve voluntary certification to compete for clients, those clients usually look for accredited certification.
- The UK government advises that when businesses, governments and local authorities seek certification, they do so through UKAS-accredited certification bodies whenever such a body exists.
- Accredited certifications let an organization demonstrate its commitment to quality.
- The accreditor's standards are completely met, meaning the organization can fully reap the benefits of their chosen certification.
- The accreditation body's commitment to quality allows the certified business to benefit from better supply chain visibility, reduced risk of downtime and more predictable manufacturing costs.
How to Choose a Certification Body
When selecting a certification body, you want to choose a partner with the skills, values and experience to meet all your needs. Accreditation is a crucial consideration, as it ensures a certification is widely recognized and accepted. The right certification body is a trustworthy partner for your organization. They work with you during your initial audit and continue to provide support as you seek recertification every three years, alongside any additional standards as your organization grows.
1. Verify the Certification Body's Skills
Your certification body should possess three indicators of skill, including:
Accreditation is the first thing to look for in any certification body. An accreditation through UKAS or another equivalent body with global recognition ensures your certification is widely accepted. When doing business internationally, an accreditation with international recognition ensures your organization's certification is accepted everywhere. Accredited certification bodies are globally trusted to provide thorough and impartial audits.
UKAS accreditation, in particular, requires that certification bodies do not provide consultancy services. This requirement ensures that the third-party auditor does not coach the company through the audit and provides a fair and unbiased assessment.
NQA is certified to ISO 17021-1:2015, the international standard for organizations that certify management systems. We are accredited by both UKAS and ANAB and a range of other accreditation bodies, including:
- ACCREDIA, Italy's sole national accreditation body.
- Emirates International Accreditation Center (EIAC), the governmental accreditation body in the Emirate of Dubai.
- China National Accreditation Service for Conformity Assessment (CNAS), the Chinese national accreditation body for certification bodies, laboratories and inspection bodies.
When certifying your company's management system to a relevant standard, the certification body and its employees must have the relevant skills to carry out the audit.
Accredited certification bodies like NQA must ensure that every staff member is trained and competent enough to handle duties as listed in our scope of accreditation. This means that our inspectors have the knowledge, experience and proficiencies to audit your organization. It also means that any back-office staff you work with throughout your certification process are trained and knowledgeable in their roles.
ISO 17021-1:2015 lists specific competence requirements for:
- Environmental management systems
- Quality management systems
- Asset management systems
- Business continuity management systems
- Road traffic safety management systems
Since NQA is certified to this standard, we can demonstrate our competence in evaluating each of these management systems. When no relevant accreditation exists, we apply the same level of rigor, competence and impartiality to the certification process, as though we were accredited.
The final skill a certification body needs to be a good candidate for your organization is proficiency in the standards you require. If you need an immediate certification as directed by a client or for other business reasons, the first step is to find a certification body that offers that certification. However, businesses often need many credentials as they mature. Therefore, it's prudent to look for a certification body with competence in many standards relevant to your industry. As industry standards evolve, your certification body should adapt to incorporate the most up-to-date versions of the standards and any new ones that arise.
At NQA, we're qualified to certify organizations to many standards relevant to a range of industries.
For quality management systems, we can audit companies for certification to:
- ISO 9001
- ISO 13485
- AS9100, AS9110, AS9120 and AS6081
- IATF 16949
- ESD S20.20
- TL 9000
For information security management systems, we can audit companies for certification to:
- ISO 27001
- ISO 27701
- ISO 27017
- ISO 20000-1
For environmental and energy management systems, we can certify to:
- ISO 14001
- ISO 50001
- PAS 2060 (in the UK only)
- EcoCampus (in the UK only)
In the field of health and safety management, we offer certifications such as:
- ISO 45001
- Safety Schemes in Procurement (SSIP) (in the UK only)
For food safety management, we certify organizations to:
- ISO 22000
- FSSC 22000
We also certify companies to a range of other ISO standards, including:
- ISO 22301
- ISO 37001
- ISO 55001
- ISO 41001
- ISO 44001
- ISO 39001
- COVID-secure guideline verification (in the UK only)
- PAS 43 (in the UK only)
- National Highways Sectors Schemes (NHSS) (in the UK only)
You can also visit our standards page for a complete list of the standards we offer to suit various industries.
2. Assess the Certification Body's Background and Experience
Besides having verifiable accreditations and competence in your required standards, you should also consider the certification body's relevant experience. How many years has the organization been in business? How is their brand received? What industries and types of organizations do they serve? The answers to these questions can all be crucial indicators of a certification body with the right background for your needs.
A certification body with clients and recognition around the globe signifies the international acceptance of their certifications. A body with a global brand can open up new opportunities for growth and help you connect with industry peers and business partners worldwide. NQA has head offices in the UK, USA and China with accreditations from all over the globe. We have served clients in more than 90 countries and issued more than 50,000 certificates.
The assessors in charge of your audit should be knowledgeable about the audit process for your particular standard. More importantly, they should know how the standards apply to your industry and specific business. Recommending corrective actions is often an expected part of the audit process, especially in the early stages. Your auditor should have enough background in your industry and a thorough understanding of your own business to make useful recommendations.
As part of the NQA audit process, we look for opportunities to improve your management systems at every audit. We likewise understand the importance of having an assessor experienced in your industry to identify those opportunities that make the most sense for your business. Our assessors take the time and care to study your business thoroughly, and we only send assessors who have previous experience or knowledge in your industry.
Case Studies or Client References
Reading case studies can give you a sense of the clients a certification body serves. It can also explain how the company works to solve complex problems in particular industries. Case studies can help you see what it's like working with a certification body alongside their range of skills and unique approach to audits. If a certification body does not have case studies, they should provide you with at least two references you can speak to directly about the experience.
At NQA, we've published case studies from our work with clients across many industries seeking a range of certifications. We invite you to see how we approach each client a little differently while applying the same rigor and impartiality to every business we work with.
3. Look for the Right Cultural Fit
While auditors need to remain fair and impartial, they are also a crucial ally to your organization. During ISO certification, the auditor visits your business at least twice during the initial certification process. The auditor also conducts annual partial audits and recertification audits every three years. When you work with NQA, your assessor seeks opportunities to improve your business at every audit. Since you see your auditors often, and they provide third-party support towards achieving continual improvement, you should look for an excellent cultural fit.
First, get a feel for how the company's overall values and approach fit in with your culture. When a certification body shares your values, you'll get more out of your initial and ongoing audits. One core value to look for in certification bodies is the goal to provide value-added audits. Value-added audits go beyond providing prescriptions to get your organization aligned with the desired standard. These auditors look at the management system and company as a whole to identify real opportunities for improvement that the company can benefit from beyond certification.
At NQA, our core values include stewardship to every stakeholder, technical integrity and continual improvement.
Your Cultural Needs
When considering a certification body, be sure to describe your organization and express any cultural needs. If the certification body seems like a good fit, make sure to communicate your values and expectations. The more you share with NQA, the more likely we are to match you with auditors who fit your cultural needs.
While certification bodies cannot provide consultancy, they can offer a range of support services. As you compare certification bodies, look for those that provide the support that fits your company's needs. For example, NQA offers workshops, free gap analysis documents and monthly webinars.
When budgeting for certification, you must factor in the initial costs alongside the ongoing cost of being recertified every three years. As you evaluate proposals, consider the days required for the audit alongside the price. Make sure you understand what the pricing includes and what would require an added fee.
At NQA, we seek to provide you with a fair, all-inclusive fee upfront. Our cost structure includes a day rate and an estimate for how long the certification process should take based on your organization's complexity, the scope of certification and the particular processes you engage in. You can get a quick estimate or a formal quote for your certificate by filling out our online form.
View NQA's Accreditations
NQA is proud to hold accreditations from UKAS, ANAB and many other accreditation bodies from around the globe. We take the certification process seriously, and our far-reaching accreditations allow us to issue certifications that are applicable and accepted in more than 90 countries. See our full range of accreditations, certificates and other credentials and contact us at +27 87 286 8213 to discuss getting your certification from an accredited certification body.