What is an ISO certification?

The question what is an ISO certification is not a question answered easily. The world of ISO standards can be quite complex. In this article we try to provide a short answer so you know what an ISO certification is.

More and more companies are asked to submit an ISO certificate before doing business, getting a contract or competing in a tenderprocedure. The reason for this is simple: if your organisation has an ISO certificate, your customer knows that work in the organisation is done according to a number of fixed, worldwide recognised requirements.

To obtain ISO certification, a company must meet the requirements of the relevant standard. These standards are set by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). The requirements for the standards are the same worldwide, so an ISO certificate has the same value worldwide.

The standard used the most worldwide is ISO 9001 for quality management. But there are many, many standards. You have a standard for environmental management, ISO 14001. For health and safety management and VCA you have the ISO 45001 standard while the ISO 27001 standard covers everything on information security. But what precisely is ISO certification? And how do you get started with it?

What is an ISO certification

The answer to the question what is an ISO certification in a nutshell would be: with certification, you demonstrate that you meet the requirements of the relevant standards. These standards consist of requirements that your organisation must meet.

The requirements as well as the standards are set by the above mentioned International Organization for Standaardization. The NEN (NEderlandse Norm) is the organisation who ensures that the standards are usable for the Netherlands and the Dutch market.

When you meet requirements of the standard, you address issues on a regular basis, you describe how you work and you continue to work that way. In addition, each standard aims at continuous improvement: learning from what is not going well, for example through received complaints. In order to meet these standards, you have to set up the necessary procedures in your organisation. This is what you call a management system.  You set up these procedures through a number of fixed requirements.

Rules of the game for ISO standards

Remember while learning what an ISO certification is: most certifications involve requirements relating to your organisation and the processes in your organisation but not directly to your products. For example, requirements are made about which processes you must set up. Rules are included about which processes should comply with as a minimum. Standards are written in fairly general terms. The trick is to apply them properly to your own organisation, you have to translate the general terms of the standard so these general terms can be applied to your organisation.

The audit and the auditor

Certification is issued by a so-called certifying body. After you have set up and implemented your management system, you invite the certifying body to assess you on the standard in question. The auditor of the certifying body will visit your organisation to assess whether you comply with all the requirements of the standard. If this audit is successful, you will receive the ISO Certificate. The auditor will then come and assess annually whether you continue to meet the requirements of the standard.

Practical ebook

Hopefully you have a bit of an idea about what an ISO certification is. But we can imagine you want to know more! There is a lot more to tell about the subject what is an ISO certification. And so we compiled a practical ISO ebook in which you can read more about what an ISO certification is, about what ISO is, what the benefits of ISO certification are and how you can get certified.  You can download the ebook completly free of charge right here: click here to download the free ISO 9001 checklist.

About the author
KAM Consultants was founded by Joost Vaessen in 2011 After seeing various consultants working on ISO implementations in previous years, he decided that ISO certification was becoming far too complex. Reason enough for him to take up the adventure and start his own consultancy firm. Over the years Joost and his team of consultants have guided more than 1000 companies towards various ISO certifications. As a highly experienced consultant, Joost set himself the goal of simplifying ISO certification for companies by sharing knowledge, providing training and developing software.
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