An accreditation body (AB) is an organization that provides accreditation services, which is a formal, third party recognition of competence to perform specific tasks. In other words, it means that organizations seeking accreditation can demonstrate to their customers that they have been successful at meeting the requirements of international accreditation standards.
In the last few decades many specified standards have been developed, and with them the number of organizations that check conformity and compliance with these standards has grown. These organizations provide services such as testing, inspection, calibration and certification and they may be laboratories, inspection bodies, certification bodies or other types of organizations. Anything or anyone can be evaluated (products, equipment, people, management systems or organizations) and the role of an accreditation body is to assess the technical competence and integrity of the organizations offering these kinds of evaluation services by:
- Ensuring that certification bodies, inspection agencies, calibration/testing laboratories and other conformity assessment bodies meet established standards that will enable them to provide a service in an objective and independent manner.
- Ensuring compliance with codes of ethics/conduct when providing assessment services.
- Examining the competence of the organization’s staff.
- Verifying the scope of an organization’s services. There are many sector specific standards and because not all organizations perform the same work or have similar capabilities, accreditation bodies can help identify and qualify those that are competent to perform a defined scope of work.
Regarding the quality of products and services, accreditation bodies play an important role because many are motivated to define and measure quality in a particular field. In their vision and mission statements, most accreditation bodies include quality improvement in their respective field. This helps keep accredited programs constantly focused on quality improvement as one of their own measures of success.
When an organization has been accredited by an accreditation body it means that they have been assessed against internationally recognized standards to demonstrate their competence, impartiality and performance capability. This serves as a means to identify a proven, competent evaluator so that the selection of a laboratory, inspection or certification body is an informed choice. Most accreditation bodies provide a list of the organizations they have accredited, facilitating the search of these accredited organizations.