ISO 17021:2006 for Certification Bodies

The recently released ISO 17021:2006 standard is expected to increase confidence in management system certification.

Hundreds of thousands of organizations worldwide, their customers, consumers, and regulatory authorities stand to benefit from ISO 17021, Conformity Assessment – Requirements for Bodies Providing Audit and Certification of Management Systems. The new standard places rigorous requirements for competence and impartiality on the bodies that offer audits and certification to standards like ISO 9001:2000 (quality management) and ISO 14001:2004 (environmental management).

ISO 17021 has a huge potential impact since some 888,000 organizations in 161 countries are independently certified to ISO 9001:2000 and/or ISO 14001:2004.

ISO 17021 has been designed as the single source of internationally harmonized requirements for certification bodies and their activities, not only in relation to ISO 9001:2000 and ISO 14001:2004, but also to new management standards for food safety (ISO 22000), information security (ISO 27001), and supply chain security (ISO 28000), as well as, to others that may be developed.

Replacing and improving on two ISO Guides (62 and 66), ISO 17021 distills an international consensus on the latest in good practice. In addition, it incorporates guidance developed by the International Accreditation Forum (IAF), an international association of accreditation bodies.

ISO 17021 represents a new model for the standards that make up ISO’s “tool box” for conformity assessment, which is the evaluation of products, services, systems, processes, and materials against standards, regulations, or other specifications. It innovates in presenting the principles of certification and the performance-based requirements that flow from them.

These certification principles cover impartiality, competence, responsibility, openness, confidentiality, and responsiveness to complaints. The standard underlines the need to ensure the competence of all the personnel of the certification body – not just auditors – in the management system certification process.

Requirements for impartiality include the following: demonstration by the top management of certification bodies of the need to avoid conflicts of interest between certification and consultancy, training and internal auditing services; the marketing of certification services; and the subcontracting of audits.

The certification body is required to set up a committee for safeguarding impartiality. The standard envisages that such a committee could include representatives of clients of the certification body, customers of these clients, trade associations, regulatory bodies, governmental and nongovernmental organizations, and consumer associations.

Additionally, the certification body is required to implement a management system to ensure its conformity to ISO 17021:2006. The new standard is available from the ANSI eStandards Store for $54.00