Does accreditation matter for ISO certifications?


Is an accredited ISO certification the same as a plain ISO certification or ISO compliance? It may seem like a slight difference in word choice. Still, it can significantly impact your organization and whether you need to be certified to some of the most popular ISO standards, like ISO 9001 for quality and ISO 45001 for occupational health and safety, or to another of the other 22,500 standards provided by ISO.

So what makes being ISO Compliant, ISO Certified, and Accredited ISO Certified different from one another? Read more to find out.

The distinction is important

Knowing the distinction between organizations considering certification and those with procurement and legal departments who insist on certification for their partners and vendors is vital. None of them are incorrect or superior to the others. The requirements that you and your clients have will ultimately determine if "ISO Compliant," "ISO Certified," or "Accredited ISO Certified" fulfill your demands. Knowing the difference can help you avoid wasting time, money, or potential clients because recognized accreditation can be expected or a contractual or legal necessity.

ISO Compliant can be a self-proclaimed title. The organization in question is fully or partially compliant with ISO requirements and has done its best to implement them but lacks an independent certification.

When anything is ISO Certified, it indicates a separate certification agency has given written confirmation that it complies with the relevant ISO standard.

An independent certification body recognized by an independent accrediting authority issued a certificate to offer written proof of compliance, known as accredited ISO certification or, more specifically, certification by an accredited certification body.

Please be aware that although there is a clear distinction between "ISO certification" and "accredited ISO certification," people often refer to and anticipate "accredited certification" when discussing ISO certification (even in contract language).

What is the opinion of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO)?

ISO defines "Certification" and "Accreditation" as follows:

  • Certification – the provision by an independent body of written assurance (a certificate) that the product, service or system in question meets specific requirements.
  • Accreditation – the formal recognition by an independent body, generally known as an accreditation body, that a certification body operates according to international standards.

It is worth noting that the ISO organization, which consists of 164 members from different countries, develops standards but does not certify companies or issue certificates.

Accredited certification is not offered for every standard.

Research the certification body

You may already have a certification body in mind, in which case you may look at the "about" page or conduct a search on the terms "accreditation" or "accredited" on the website of your choice for the certification body. After that, you may perform your due diligence and determine whether they are (currently) listed with the accrediting organization. You can also determine whether the accreditation body is a member of the International Accreditation Forum (IAF).