New ISO 17021 Edition

The second edition of ISO 17021, Conformity assessment – Requirements for bodies providing audit and certification of management systems, sets new requirements for the auditing of management systems, as well as, auditor competence.

The intent of the new edition is to increase the value of certification to public and private sector organizations worldwide. Certification bodies that carry out management system certification are being given a two-year period to bring their operations in line with the new edition.

ISO 17021:2011 is meant to increase trust in certificates issued attesting conformity to management system standards (MSS) such as ISO 9001 (quality management) and ISO 14001 (environmental management). Certificates to these and other MSS are widely used in global markets to establish confidence between business partners and between organizations and their customers, to qualify suppliers in supply chains, and as a requirement to tender for procurement contracts.

The first edition, published in 2006, named six principles that inspire confidence:

  • impartiality
  • competence
  • responsibility
  • openness
  • confidentiality
  • complaint handling

These principles then formed the basis for specific requirements given in the standard.

The new edition retains these principles and requirements, but adds new requirements developed in response to market feedback on the use of the first edition. The new requirements provided in ISO 17021:2011 relate to the competence of the auditors who carry out certification and to the way in which they are managed and deployed.

Certification bodies that use the new edition will be able to ensure competent audit teams, with adequate resources, following a consistent process, and reporting audit results in a consistent manner.

Observance of the standard’s requirements is intended to ensure that certification bodies operate competently, consistently, and impartially, thereby facilitating the recognition of such bodies and the acceptance of their certifications both nationally and internationally. ISO 17021 will therefore serve as a foundation for facilitating the recognition of management system certification in the interests of international trade.

The requirements of the 2006 edition have not been changed except where they contradict those of the 2011 edition. ISO 17021 is also being published in an unofficial marked-up edition highlighting the new and deleted text. The new edition will be reviewed one year after it has been in use to decide whether any first edition requirements need modifying to align them further with the new requirements.

ISO and the International Accreditation Forum (IAF), the association of national accreditation bodies that declare the competence of certification bodies, have agreed on a two-year transition period from the publication date of ISO 17021:2011 for certification bodies to bring their operations and processes in line with the requirements of the new edition. You can see the joint ISO-IAF communiqué at this web page.