Accreditation is defined by ISO/IEC 17011:2004 as a formal third-party attestation of a conformity assessment body, of its competence to conduct specific conformity assessment tasks. The earliest accreditation programmes were often applied to the purchases made by the armed forces or other large government procurement agencies. Some large private corporations also operated their own systems for approval of suppliers to test products prior to shipping.
Accreditation bodies build their operating policies and procedures to meet the requirements specified in the international standard ISO/IEC 17011: “Conformity assessment - General requirements for accreditation bodies accrediting conformity assessment bodies” In addition to these requirements a number of documents issued by IAF and ILAC contain mandatory provisions for policies and procedures, as well as guidance for accreditation bodies to apply in the delivery of their accreditation services. Accreditation bodies, as applicable, if those bodies are to obtain international recognition from IAF and/or ILAC, must implement the mandatory provisions.
Broadly speaking, ISO/IEC 17011 specifies requirements with respect to:
- Competence and experience of staff;
- Management system;
- Accreditation processes and assessment practices;
- On-site assessment;
- Surveillance visits;
- Complaints and appeals;
- Contractual requirements between the accreditation body and its accredited bodies.
The term Multilateral Recognition Arrangements (MLAs) in this context refers to mechanisms whereby a user or acceptance authority in one country can have sufficient confidence in the validity of test/inspection reports and certificates issued by Conformity Assessment Bodies (CAB) in foreign countries; and, to accept them without having to make individual re-evaluations of the competence of those CABs. Historically the first decisions to establish these types of arrangements were in response to a domestic need to save time and resources on unnecessary duplication. Arrangements were entered into after assessing the risk and with perhaps some evaluation of the operations of the foreign body.
Certification Ensures Traceability
The central role that the concept of making available plays in Union harmonisation legislation is related to the fact that all economic operators in the supply-chain have traceability obligations and need to have an active role in ensuring that only compliant products circulate on the Union market.
The traceability requirements allow tracing the history of the product and support market surveillance. It allows market surveillance authorities to find the liable economic operators and obtain evidence of the product compliance. The traceability requirements include labelling the product and identifying the economic operators in the distribution chain.
Why use an accredited certification body?
Selecting the right organisation to carry out your certification can be fraught with unknowns. Choosing a certification body that has been accredited by an accreditation body that is a signatory to the IAF Multilateral Recognition Arrangement (MLA) has proved that it complies with best practice. It is competent to deliver a consistently reliable and impartial service which meets the appropriate, internationally-recognised standard.
What should I consider when selecting a Certification Body?
When selecting an organisation to certify your management system, there are a number of factors to consider:
- Qualifications, training and ongoing competence monitoring of staff
- Technically competent people that have the relevant experience and sector expertise.
- Procurers in domestic and overseas markets recognise the certification.
- The certification independently and impartially verifies compliance to a standard
RoyalCert covers all these properties mentioned above
Benefits of accredited certification for Business - the IAF MLA provides businesses that are procuring products and services with greater confidence in their consistency of quality. Businesses can therefore select suppliers from further afield in the knowledge that they will receive products and services that conform to a recognised standard.
Benefits of accredited certification for Manufacturers - Having products assessed and certified as conforming to a particular standard allows manufacturers and service providers to distinguish themselves from less reputable suppliers, thereby creating a competitive advantage.
The IAF MLA ensures that standards, specifications and conformity assessment methods are the same, allowing one certificate or certification to be recognised around the world. This lowers the cost of accredited certification and reduces the risk of products or services being rejected by international trading partners.
Benefits of accredited certification for Consumers - Consumer confidence can be gained from goods or services that bear a mark or carry a certificate of conformity. The IAF MLA ensures that such goods and services placed on the market, from which ever country of origin, meet standards of quality and safety.
Benefits of accredited certification for Regulators?
Government bodies and regulators are constantly called upon to make decisions related to:
- Protecting the health and welfare of consumers and the public
- Protecting the environment
- Developing new regulations and requirements
- Measuring compliance with regulatory and legal requirements
- Allocating resources both technical and financial
Governments and the citizens they protect are increasingly moving towards zero risk tolerance. Regulators are introducing stricter and more comprehensive regulations and reporting requirements. Businesses are therefore required to demonstrate legal and regulatory compliance. Almost all countries have rules and regulations related to safety for almost all goods. There are greater requirements regarding environmental performance, from recycling to packaging to energy consumption. Compliance with regulations is therefore no longer meeting specification, but it can relate to the lifecycle of a product. Accredited certification is used to assess conformity against a standard, a code of practice or regulatory requirements. Regulators can set overall policy requirements or detailed technical requirements and rely on the accredited certification bodies to ensure compliance. The award of a certificate or a mark demonstrates compliance.
Accreditation is the independent evaluation of certification bodies against recognized standards to ensure their impartiality, competence and consistency. Regulators are increasingly relying on independent third party declarations of compliance to support their enforcement and monitoring activities as they demonstrate compliance with legislation and performance against industry benchmarks and performance indicators. As major procurers of goods and services, Governments also rely on accredited certification to inform their buying decisions, as it provides confidence that suppliers have appropriate controls in place to deliver to requirements
As Alan Bryden, ISO Secretary-General, ones stated;
“Standards and accreditation provide a framework of trust for marketing and purchasing goods and services. In competitive and open markets, both government and business rely on trust to ensure a fair exchange of safe goods and services. The essential aspect of accreditation is that it underpins this confidence because it is a valid means of verifying claims about quality, performance, and competence. With the globalization not only of trade, but of many other issues such as climate change and environmental protection, security and health, trust must be achieved globally. The use of ISO International Standards as the reference criteria for accreditation and the development of the ILAC MRA and IAF MLA are therefore key to building trust across borders and promoting best practices in conformity assessment worldwide.
“Those having requirements for the assessment of compliance of products and services, whether in the regulated areas or for private transactions, have come to recognise the importance of credible accreditation programs that are based on internationally recognised standards and subject to mutual recognition. With restricted budgets, many government agencies can no longer do it all themselves; increasingly, they must rely on accredited conformity assessment to support their regulatory policies. Accreditation based on ISO standards and ILAC MRA and IAF MLA provides that and assists in meeting the commitments taken in the context of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade.”