Are Certification Bodies all the same?

Many companies decide to use an Accredited Body (or Certification Body) purely on the basis of having the most recognised certification marks and that can be a fully justified purchasing decision, however there can also be good reasons to consider other Certification Bodies. Apart from the different marks the certificate’s status is the same whichever Certification Body issues it so you may want to consider other factors too when selecting a Certification Body.

Why companies choose Certification?

Sometimes companies consider certification as a marketing tool – to help differentiate them from their competitors. Certification is usually customer driven, often enabling a company to tender or supply to customers previously inaccessible to them. It may also simplify the tendering process: Instead of filling in long questionnaires about policies, procedures and methods you may be able to just provide a copy of a certificate. Some forward-thinking companies decide to obtain certification because their company will benefit from the process, but this is rarely the main driver.

Financial considerations

Let’s get down to the knitty-gritty, certification is an additional cost and trying to financially justify that cost without opening up new markets or increasing sales is difficult, but certification fees can vary too. What is fixed are the rules governing how a Certification Body decides the minimum number of days they have to conduct on site audit activity. This is based on the size of the operation being audited, the number of persons or more importantly the number of different roles within the company. So for instance a Certification body can count 5 persons conducting exactly the same role as 5 persons or a single person. This is one reason why quotations can vary. The costs are in bands so quibbling over a couple of people in your headcount is unlikely to have a major impact on the cost unless the number of persons changes the band you are in. The other things that vary are how much a Certification body charges per day and how much they are willing to negotiate that price to win the work. It is wise to get more than one quotation and never accept a Certification Body’s first price. They can and do compete with each other on price (although they would obviously rather not). And this applies to the better known certification marks too.

Audit Schedule

The rules that govern the minimum number of auditing days, can be implemented in different ways so you may find that once certified your Certification Body may want to conduct a surveillance audit every 6 months, 9 months, or 12 months. As long as they audit you at least once in every 12 month period a Certification Body may let you specify the frequency. Not many companies specify this frequency, but I find even fewer are aware that this can sometimes be negotiated (although some Certification Bodies are asking customers what their preference is). Sometimes you can also influence how those days are spent, by suggesting a particular area for the audit to focus on. The other thing you are at liberty to negotiate is how many auditors come on site. If you are due for 4 days of auditing this could be 4 auditors in 1 day, 2 auditors for 2 days or 1 auditor for 4 days. If you have a preference then try to negotiate this with your Certification Body.

Audit Results

Certification Bodies produce different style audit reports. Again there are rules governing the minimum requirement, but outside those it is open to interpretation. Even the way a Certification Body categorises it’s findings can vary. As far as we are aware they all have Non-compliances or Non-conformances to mean an audit finding identifying a deficiency against a requirement. However most Bodies assign weightings depending on severity of the Non-conformance (i.e. Major and Minor). There are also a raft of other findings: Area of Concern, Opportunity for Improvement, Observation, Comments, etc and these can all have potentially different meanings. What is common between Certification Bodies is that their reports have an explanation detailing what the findings mean. Don’t be fooled into thinking you have to follow the Certification Bodies categorisations in your own management system. We personally favour a very basic approach for most companies which clearly identifies whether or not action is required.

  • Observation
    a positive or negative finding that could lead to an improvement. Action optional.
  • Non-conformance
    a finding which identifies where an organisation does not conform to requirements. Action mandatory.

The target completion assigned by the Certification Body may vary, and is typically based on the severity of the finding. A shorter turnaround will be expected for major findings, whereas less sever findings may not be reviewed until the subsequent audit.

You may want ask to see an example of a potential Certification Body’s audit report before signing a contract. Let’s face it, when they issue a report, you want to understand it and it could be one of the criteria for selecting a Certification Body.

List of Australian Certification Bodies

The following list provides details of Certification Bodies and the approximate number of ISO 9001 Certification customers as of November 2012. Please note this data is static data and as such may not represent current information as certification bodies change, as do the number of clients they have.

SAI SAI Global P/L

3781

NCSI NCS International P/L

843

BSI BSI Group P/L

796

SGS-SSC SGS Systems Services Certification P/L

551

BV Bureau Veritas Australia P/L

486

LRQA Lloyds Register Quality Assurance Limited

473

Globalmark Global-Mark P/L

438

QMS CS QMS Certification Services P/L

331

TQCSI TQCS International P/L

321

ICL International Certifications Limited

290

Sci Qual Sci Qual International P/L

260

ISC International Standards Certifications P/L

231

DNV DNV Certification P/L

223

CACS Compliance Australia Certification Services

203

DLCS Davis Langdon Certification Services

192

BPC Best Practice Certification

131

GC Global Certification P/L

129

QCSE Quality Control Services (Environmental) P/L

103

IHCAC Institute for Healthy Communities Australia Certification P/L

71

SC Sustainable Certification P/L

56

Equal Equal Assurance P/L

48

DQS DQS Certification P/L

28

IQC Integrated Quality Certification Pvt Ltd

28

ECAAS ECAAS Certification P/L

14

AUS-QUAL AUS-QUAL P/L

11

 Telarc Safety in Mines Testing and Research Station

11

 ICGC ICG Compliance P/L

10

 Certex Certex International P/L

9

 HDAA Health and Disability Auditing Australia P/L

2

 SA Southpac Aerospace P/L

2

 ASUREQUALITY AsureQuality Limited

1

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