What is accredited certification and why does it matter?
Accreditation is the process by which the customer is given assurance that the organisation conducting the Certification activity has been independently checked as complying with all National and International Standards and the requirements of the Scheme being Certified, in this case – the TickITplus Scheme.
The Accreditation requirements are spelled out in a series of International Standards, with the principal ones of interest to TickITplus being ISO 17000 and ISO 17021. These are worldwide standards and are supported by Governments. Each country has an appointed National Accreditation Body. For the United Kingdom, this is the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS). UKAS meets the requirements of ISO 17000. Generally there will only be one nationally recognised Accreditation Body. The roles of Accreditation Bodies are many and various, but in this case we are interested in their Accreditation of Certification Bodies.
A Certification Body is simply an organisation which offers Certification Services. Any organisation can set up as a Certification Body. Examples may be companies, trade organisations or special interest groups. From a customer point of the view, the distinguishing feature is whether they are Nationally Accredited or not. Pretty much anything can be certified, be it a product, a service or a process. The credibility comes from the organisation performing the certification and what standards they applying to that certification. Clearly a nationally Accredited Certification Body has more credibility than an individual offering a piece of paper.
For a Certification Body to become Accredited, it has to comply with requirements checked by the Accreditation Body. The requirements are slightly different depending on whether the Certification Body is offering a Management System Certification, Product Certification or Laboratory System Certification. TickITplus Foundation Level is a Management System Certification and the requirements for the Certification Body are set out in ISO 17021-1. The Accreditation Body carries out an Assessment of the potential Certification Body to ensure that they meet all the requirements of ISO 17021-1. This answers the question “Who audits the auditor?”. To maintain Accreditation, each Certification Body has to be Assessed each year to verify that they are continuing to meet all requirements, both at an organisation level and at a Scheme level.
In order to switch to capability level assessments, we need to change to a Product Certification Standard, in this case ISO 17065. This standard is very broad, but in essence says that the organisation creating a certification Scheme has to define the requirements for certification. For TickITplus Capability Levels, the Scheme owner is the ITA. The ITA has agreed that only TickITplus Accredited Certification Bodies can offer TickITplus Capability Level certificates. As such the ITA is acting as the Accreditation Body. This is commonly referred to as “Unaccredited Certification” because the certification body cannot put the UKAS logo on the certificate, but the certification has credibility due to the oversight of the ITA in the issue of certificates.
TickITplus Foundation Level is a UKAS-accredited certification scheme. UKAS-accredited certification against the standard is available from UKAS-accredited certification bodies.
TickITplus has been written such that any National Accreditation Body can Accredit any Certification Body in any country. So far, only UKAS has performed Accreditations, but the option remains for other Accreditation Bodies to perform Accreditations.
This website also maintains a list of TickITplus-certified organisations. This list is authoritative in that the data is supplied by the certification bodies themselves and moderated by the ITA as Scheme Owner.