Certification versus accreditation
There is a lot of uncertainty about certification and accreditation. Because when are you certified and when are you accredited? And what about a quality mark? That is why we will explain the difference.
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What is certification?
A certificate is a written statement. This document states that a product, process, person, quality system or service meets certain requirements.
Certificates help consumers and companies make their choice when purchasing. Producers or service providers use the certificate to strengthen their competitive position. They can show that a company’s product, service or management system meets certain requirements. For example to customers or clients.
A certificate is sometimes required. For example, as a mandatory requirement imposed by the government or when a client requires a certificate from its supplier. It may also be a form of self-regulation. Companies and industry organisations conclude mutual agreements and have them checked by an independent certification body.
Certification under accreditation
With certification, an independent certification body assesses whether the quality system of an institution meets predetermined standards. There are two forms of certification:
- Certification under accreditation
This assessment system is bound by a number of strict rules. For example, the assessment must be carried out by an independent certifier who may not simultaneously play an advisory role. The certificate has a limited duration and interim assessments are mandatory. Examples are ISO certification and HKZ certification.
- Certification not under accreditation
This assessment system and the standards package have been developed by, for example, a trade association, professional organisation or franchise organisation. The certification is outsourced to one single, independent certification body. Examples are the Private Lease Quality Mark and the KBvG Quality Standards.
What are the different types of certificates?
Certificates are for a:
- Product, process or service
The certificate demonstrates that the product, process or service meets certain requirements. For example for safety, quality or environment.
The certificate shows that, for example, a company has an environmental management system in place that meets certain quality requirements.
The certificate indicates that the person has certain knowledge and skills.
A quality mark may be associated with a certificate. It enables consumers to see at a glance that this concerns a reliable party or product and it helps them to make their choice when purchasing. For producers or service providers it helps to strengthen their competitive position. An example is the Private Lease Quality Mark. Developed by Brand Compliance in collaboration with the Association of Dutch Car Leasing Companies (VNA).
What is accreditation?
Anyone can issue a certificate or a quality mark, but it inspires more confidence if a specialised certification body issues the certification. It inspires more confidence if this institution is accredited. It means they meet certain requirements, are impartial and are experts in their field.
The formal definition of accreditation is: “The recognition by an authoritative organisation that another organisation or person is competent to perform a certain task.” The Dutch Accreditation Council (RVA) is the authoritative organisation that issues accreditations to institutes assessing conformity, among other things to carry out assessments based on standards/schemes.
Which accreditations exist for the discipline accreditation for conformity assessment bodies?
- ISO 17021 (management system certification)
Requirements for institutions that provide audits and certification of management systems. Brand Compliance is accredited for ISO 17021 and may perform audits under accreditation against ISO 27001 and various ISO 9001 scopes.
- ISO 17024 (personnel certification)
General requirements for institutions that perform certification of personnel
- ISO 17065 (product certification)
This contains requirements for certification bodies that award certificates for products, processes and services. The audit process or certification scheme is not laid down with this accreditation. The certification body has to develop this process, which is subsequently assessed and, if relevant, accredited by the RVA. ISO 17065 accreditation is mentioned, for example, in the GDPR, for certification bodies wishing to issue certificates under the GDPR. Brand Compliance has now submitted an application for this accreditation and the preliminary investigation has been positively assessed by the RVA.
The accreditation process
The accreditation process is usually started by an application submitted to the RVA by a conformity-certifying organisation, such as laboratories, inspection bodies, certification bodies and verification bodies. The RVA then conducts a preliminary assessment, office assessment and attendance, also called “shadow assessment”, at the relevant inspection or audit institution. The office assessment and attendance is a recurring activity for the accreditations. Brand Compliance is therefore re-assessed and re-accredited every year.
The Dutch government appointed the Dutch Accreditation Council (RVA) as the national accreditation institute. This is an independent, non-profit administrative body accountable to the Minister of Economic Affairs.
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