You likely don’t have to handle terms like approval, validation, quality symbols, and guidelines every day. It might not be clear to you what they signify. What are the differences? In this article, we aim to bring more understanding.
In a nutshell…
A certificate is a written declaration that is granted once it is confirmed that a product, procedure, person, quality system, or service meets specific (standard) criteria. These criteria are pre-established in a guideline at a national, European, or global level.
Upon receiving a certificate, it is often permissible to use a quality mark. The quality mark serves as evidence and is frequently included on packaging or promotional materials.
When a certificate or quality mark is issued by an authorized certification organization (auditing agency), it gives additional confidence. This is because it signifies that the certification body meets certain prerequisites.
What is certification?
In the context of certification, an impartial certification body verifies whether the organizational management system, for instance, aligns with specific standard(s). A certification can be conducted with or without accreditation.
Certificates help consumers and businesses in making informed purchasing decisions. Producers or service providers utilize certificates to enhance their competitive position. They utilize them to demonstrate to customers/clients that the organization’s product, service, or management system adheres to specific requirements (standards). Standards are not legal obligations, but they hold a certain level of significance.
Is a certificate required?
There are cases where a certificate becomes necessary. For example, it may be mandated by the government or insurers, or a client may request a certificate from their supplier. Furthermore, certificates can serve as a form of self-regulation, where companies and sector organizations establish mutual agreements and have them checked by an independent certification body.
What are the different types of certifications?
Certifications are available for:
Product, process or service
The certificate serves as evidence that the product, process, or service meets specific requirements (standards). These requirements can relate to safety, quality, or environmental aspects, for instance.
The certification provides evidence that a company possesses, for instance, a system for handling environmental matters that satisfies specific requirements (standards), thereby declaring their commitment to preserving the natural surroundings and upholding established expectations.
The certification signifies that the person possesses particular knowledge and skills.
A quality mark can be associated with a certificate. It provides consumers with a quick and reliable indication of the credibility of a party, product, or service, assisting them in making informed purchasing choices. For producers or service providers, it helps in gaining a competitive advantage.
What is the standard?
Certificates and quality marks are granted when a batch, product, system, or service meets a predetermined standard. Standards are carefully established frameworks comprising specific criteria and requirements. Meeting a standard signifies a significant milestone, indicating that a batch, product, or service fulfills the necessary quality and/or safety criteria.
Amendment of a standard
Standards committees regularly assess established standards to determine their ongoing adequacy and the need for updates. If a standard is revised, the corresponding assessment process is also modified accordingly. As a certified organization, you are granted a designated implementation period to incorporate the changes. Subsequently, the certification body conducts a new assessment based on the adjusted requirements.
What is accreditation?
Accreditation, in its formal definition, refers to the acknowledgment by an authoritative organization that another organization or individual possesses the competence to perform a specific task. Every country has its own authoritative organization that is responsible for allowing accreditations to certification bodies or conformity assessment bodies (CAB). In the Netherlands, this organization is the Council for Accreditation (RvA), while in Belgium it is the Belac.
Obtaining accreditation for a certification body instills confidence as it signifies that specific requirements are met and a certain level of degree is attained. Moreover, emphasis is placed on impartiality and independence, ensuring that the certification body may not simultaneously serve in an advisory capacity.
The accreditation process
To obtain accreditation, a certification, verification, inspection body, or laboratory can submit an application to the RvA. The RvA conducts a preliminary assessment and subsequently conducts regular on-site inspections at the accredited institution to ensure ongoing compliance and monitoring.
Accredited organizations have the privilege of utilizing an accreditation mark (logo) on their certificates and other communication materials as proof of their accreditation.
Accreditation for Management System Certification (ISO 17021)
Brand Compliance has obtained accreditation for ISO 17021, with a registration number C548. This accreditation enables them to conduct audits under accreditation for ISO 27001, NEN 7510 cluster B, and various scopes of ISO 9001.