Achieving certification for one of the international or ISO standards such as ISO 14001 (environmental), ISO 45001 (occupational health & safety) or ISO 9001 standard (quality) can be hugely beneficial for many organisations.
Over recent years and occurring more frequently is the number of instances where businesses have paid for and gone through processes to achieve certification and believe that they have succeeded in doing so, only to find out that they in fact have been working with a non-UKAS organisation and that the ‘certification’ achieved and is all but useless.
What Is UKAS?
The United Kingdom Accreditation Service or ‘UKAS’ is a government appointed agency authorised to assess the competence and capability of organisations providing certification, testing, inspection and calibration services against internationally agreed standards.
Achieving UKAS accreditation can be a long and difficult process for certification bodies and they have to undergo comprehensive reviews evaluating and assessing everything from policies, procedures and management as well as competence testing.
The UKAS ‘crown and tick’ is the coveted symbol which indicates a company has achieved this gold standard of ISO certification standards and clearly demonstrates the ability, competence and integrity of the certification body.
UKAS Versus Non-UKAS
There are a number of certification bodies which are ‘non-accredited’ which means they have not been accredited by UKAS. The truth is that anybody can hand out an ‘ISO Certificate’ and you could even award one to yourself, but only certification bodies who are UKAS accredited have been independently assessed and approved by UKAS can be award the ‘crown and tick’.
Put in simple terms – would you choose to be represented by a lawyer who gave himself his own certificate to practice? The answer is of course no, and this is the same answer that should be given regarding working with non-UKAS accredited certification bodies.
UKAS is the UK’s only government appointed accreditation body which means that in a lot of tendering situations, UKAS accredited certification is often required as standard to ensure that an ISO management system certification is internationally recognised by any organisation.
Unfortunately, numerous small businesses are often misled into believing that they have been certified only to discover that their certification is not recognised. This means that the certificate they issue is unregulated, carrying less weight if any and often does not demonstrate compliance to the objective ISO standard.
Some organisations choose to proceed with non-accredited companies knowing full well what they are but continue in the hopes of saving money and believing that there is value in it, unaware of the full scope or difference between UKAS accredited and non-accredited.
The non-regulated certification bodies not only have inconsistent, varying approaches to quality but often range from fairly competent with acceptable levels of service through to ‘certificate mills’ where companies are not even properly checked or audited. This means that as impressive as they might try to make it sound, a non-UKAS accredited body is not only a real roll of the dice but even if you get one that is ‘quite good’ the time, effort and money spent with them to achieve ‘certification’ can turn out to be completely pointless and a waste of time all round.
The Benefits Of Choosing A Certified ISO System
Although it can be tempting to be drawn in by the lower upfront costs of non-UKAS certification, especially for small and medium sized businesses, the ‘savings’ in reality can often result in money wasted. There are a number of benefits to choosing a UKAS accredited certification organisation including;
Profitability – Organisations which attain UKAS certification are able to clearly demonstrate their commitment to meeting international standards of quality. This means that in the long run they end up growing quicker, being more profitable and are able to charge more for their UKAS backed services.
Impartiality – UKAS prohibits assessment organisations from receiving accreditation if they also provide consultancy services. This is because they could effectively ‘mark their own work’, building a management system and then certifying it themselves which is a dangerous and unethical. However non-UKAS certification providers are not required to adhere to the same standards and often propose consultation as a key part of their service offering, creating a huge conflict of interest that only benefits them.
Tendering – The internationally recognised certification demonstrates that the business conforms to the highest standards which greatly increases chances of success when tendering. Quite often companies are dismissed, excluded and rejected from tendering processes because companies don’t want the risk associated with working with a non-UKAS body.
In summary, if you want the peace of mind in knowing that your ISO 9001 certification or other chosen standard will be recognised and that your investment will be worthwhile, always choose a UKAS accredited Certification Body and if in doubt – check the UKAS website.
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