What is ISO? Who are UKAS? What are certification bodies?
The ISO assessment process can be quite confusing. Understanding the difference between ISO, UKAS (the national accreditation body) and the certification bodies is the first step:
ISO is the International Organisation that writes standards for many different industry sectors. ISO 9001, 14001, 27001 45001 are some of the best known but as of January 2019 there were over 21,000 different ISO standards. ISO will review standards and issue updates, and write new standards where there is a need. It sits right at the top.
If ISO write the rules, it is UKAS who oversees them at the highest level in the UK. UKAS is the sole national accreditation body for the UK and is recognised by government. UKAS visit certification bodies to ensure that they and their assessors are performing to a sufficiently high level. Certification bodies seek to get accreditation from UKAS to demonstrate their competence, and 2SB believe in only suggesting certification bodies who have been accredited by UKAS. Some certification bodies are not UKAS accredited, but this means the certificate they issue is unregulated – these certificates carry less weight and in the worst cases may not demonstrate any compliance to the ISO standard.
The next step down is the Certification Bodies (DNV, NQA, ISOQAR, BSI etc). It is the certification bodies who will visit and audit your business to check for compliance against the ISO standards. Some certification bodies specialise in certain industries, some have international reputations, some are more competitively priced than others. There are around 100 certification bodies who are accredited by UKAS and it is up to your business who you ask to assess your ISO system. All certification bodies should do a similar job, however like with anything, the type of service given can vary. 2SB can help you select the right body to use for your business (and are not affiliated with any certification body).
Consultants (like 2SB) are used to help guide businesses implement management systems. They understand the standards needed to achieve certification but also look to add value to your business. It is possible for a business to successfully gain certification without the use of consultants however it can require considerable internal resources. Consultancies possess the experience, knowledge and training that can streamline the process and provide cost effective guidance as well as bring added value to your systems.