Accredited Certification Delivers Real Added Value

In 2010/11, IAF carried out a global survey to capture market feedback on the value of certification. The survey aimed to gain intelligence on the drivers for seeking certification, the selection criteria when choosing a body to provide certification services, the appropriateness of the process, and the positive outcomes of certification.

Over 4,000 responses were received from businesses of all sizes operating across a diverse range of industries. While the majority of respondents were responsible for managing quality within their organization, over a quarter of respondents were either finance directors, marketing managers or other senior management personnel. This indicates that the value of ISO certification is recognized across the spectrum of business functions, and not just in the traditional quality management arena.

This is positive news for accreditation bodies that invest a significant amount of time and resources in raising awareness of the benefits of accredited ISO certification among businesses, government departments and regulators. The primary motivation for this is to enable organizations to make an informed choice on which ISO certification bodies they use. Using an accredited ISO certification body should assure the organization that it will get the business benefits and value it pays for. But was this recognized by those who responded to the IAF survey?

The real value of certification
Over 80% of all respondents reported that ISO certification had added value to their organization. As a more quantifiable measure, around half of all participants have seen an increase in sales as a direct result of the certification.

Internal business improvement was given by nearly half of all participants as the main driver for seeking certification, while approximately one third said it was a requirement of their customers. However, respondents overwhelmingly stated that ISO certification was important to their customers. Despite only 12% citing it as the main reason for gaining certification, over 80% confirmed that ISO certification had helped them meet national regulatory requirements.

Taken together, these figures indicate that ISO certification is something that organizations are choosing to seek, primarily to improve internal operations and to provide customer confidence, rather than something that is done begrudgingly merely to tick compliance boxes. It’s not just the larger companies that are realizing these benefits though, as nearly two thirds of respondents work in SMEs, half of which have less than 50 employees.

How important are ISO certification bodies?
Over 90% of those who took part in the survey confirmed that their ISO certification body was accredited by a recognized accreditation body, with nearly three quarters stating that accreditation was either essential or very important in their line of business. Only 3% reported that accreditation was not important. When asked about the importance of the ISO certification being covered by the IAF Multilateral Recognition Agreement (MLA), 35% stated that the acceptance of their ISO certification in overseas markets was very important.

The survey also revealed that the vast majority of organizations use ISO certification bodies that are based in their local economy, with less than one in 10 seeking ISO certification from an overseas organization. To help them through the process, 60% of respondents reported that they commissioned the services of an external consultant.

Is there value for money?
While the survey identified that achieving ISO certification could be fairly complex, businesses rated the competence of accredited ISO certification bodies highly, and confirmed that the time to navigate the process met with their expectations. Asked whether the ISO certification bodies provide value for money, 62% of respondents agreed.

The findings of the survey confirm that businesses are generating significant benefits and added value from accredited certification. Not only is it being used as a tool to deliver internal business improvement and to meet regulatory compliance, but businesses confirm that it has a positive effect on revenue. Given that the majority of businesses that responded to the survey (57%) employed less than 249 people, accredited ISO certification clearly benefits small to medium sized organizations, as well as large multinationals.
Businesses taking part also reported high levels of satisfaction with the ISO certification process in terms of the timeframe to achieve ISO certification and the competence of the assessment teams. Given these positive findings, businesses perceive accredited ISO certification as providing value for money.
Nearly all of the businesses that took part in the survey (91%) selected an accredited ISO certification body, providing an assurance that these organizations have the required competence and impartiality to do so as evidenced by fulfillment of international standards and requirements.