Once you, as a company, have gone through the process of ISO certification, what are the processes you need to follow to ensure you retain your ISO certificates?
Being compliant with a particular ISO certification or a range of ISO certifications can be advantageous for many reasons. As well as meeting minimum procurement requirements for global contracts, you’ll find that your company’s reputation and competitiveness increase too. However, even an ISO benchmark certificate won’t last forever, which is why it’s important to know exactly when your certifications are due to expire.
If you fail to renew an ISO certification, you’ll automatically lose it when the expiration date arrives. In fact, this is the most common way for companies to lose an ISO certification. Most ISO certifications are valid for 12 months to three years, but this can vary, so do check your specific ISO certifications to determine how long they are applicable for. The advantage of using QAS is that you will be assigned a client co-ordinator who will contact you to remind you that your ISO certification is due to expire.
Although failing to renew is the most common way for businesses to lose an ISO certification, it is not the only reason that companies can lose certification. To learn more, take a look at these additional reasons a company might find themselves without ISO certification:
During the original audit process, one or more ‘nonconformities’ may be identified. In some cases, a company may pass an audit and obtain ISO certification on the basis that they will resolve these nonconformities within a set time period. If the establishment then fails to do so or does not implement the agreed actions, they could be stripped of their ISO certification.
If a company achieves ISO certification but subsequently closes, the certification is no longer applicable and is, therefore, ‘lost’. In some instances, a company may not close voluntarily but be forced into liquidation or file for bankruptcy. When this occurs, the ISO certification cannot continue to apply and is also considered lost.
When applying for ISO certification, companies are required to show that they meet particular standards. Whether you are applying for a basic food hygiene certificate or any other type of ISO certification, you will need to prove that you meet the requisite standards via the application and audit process.
However, meeting these standards at the time of the audit or assessment does not necessarily entitle you to retain the certificate. If your processes fall below the certification standard, for example, your certification could subsequently be suspended or withdrawn.
A lax approach to in-house process maintenance or development can lead companies to inadvertently lose an ISO certification they worked hard to achieve. To prevent this from happening, it is important to maintain the standards set when you were approved for your certification.
It is important to note that all ISO management system certificates require annual surveillance audits as part of the process of retaining certification. If a certificate lasts for three years before expiring, for example, you may need to arrange for surveillance audits to be carried out on an annual basis to ensure that you remain compliant with the standards set. If your company refuses to engage with the process or simply does not arrange for these surveillance audits to be conducted, it could result in the loss of an ISO certification.
When you apply for an ISO certification, you are entering into a contract with the certification provider. If you subsequently breach these terms, it could result in your certification being suspended or withdrawn. You might undergo and pass an ISO 14001 audit and have agreed to pay the audit fees within 30 days, for example. If you then fail to make the pre-agreed payment, this oversight could negatively impact your company and cause you to lose the certification.
If a company achieves ISO certification and then issues arise which threaten its credibility, the certificate will usually be suspended, rather than being withdrawn straight away. In most instances, certificate holders will be advised to implement corrective measures which address the cause of the suspension.
Often, certificate holders will need to do this within a set amount of time and suspensions cannot exceed six months, unless an extension is granted.
If the corrective measures have not been implemented within the timeframe or if they are not sufficient, a certificate may be withdrawn.
If your ISO certificate is suspended, you’ll need to take action to show that your company does meet the requisite standard so that your certificate is reinstated. You may be required to undergo additional audits to show that corrective measures have been effective, for example.
During this time, however, you will be unable to use your ISO certification to promote your services, products or brands. This can have a considerable impact on your operations and may mean you are unable to bid for tenders or lobby for contracts due to the procurement requirements issued by other companies.
In addition to this, you will be unable to use any promotional or marketing materials which contain the ISO certificate number or logo, which could mean hastily redesigning and reissuing your brand assets.
Achieving ISO certification is something to be celebrated but maintaining and retaining your certifications is even more important. Effective in-house process management, routine optimization and timely renewal applications are typically all it takes to keep your certification, so don’t risk damaging your brand by failing to engage with the renewal process.
Remember – it can take time to collate the information you need to renew an ISO certification, so be sure to factor this into your schedule. If recertification audits are required, for example, you’ll want to arrange these in advance so that the process isn’t delayed.
At QAS International, we have the expertise and experience to help companies obtain and retain the ISO certifications that generate the most value for their organization. To find out how we can help, contact us now at 020 3198 9788 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org