ISO 17021 is an International Standard that provides Certification Bodies (CB) with a set of requirements that will enable them to ensure that their management system certification process is carried out in a competent, consistent and impartial manner.
ISO/IEC 17021:2011 Conformity assessment — Requirements for bodies providing audit and certification of management systems, as it is officially called, was prepared by the ISO Committee on conformity assessment (CASCO) in 2006. It was developed to fulfill the need to have an International Standard that could facilitate the recognition of bodies that were performing conformity assessments and the acceptance of their certifications on a national and international basis; making it easier to recognize management system certification in the interests of international trade.
This International Standard provides a set of requirements for management systems auditing at a generic level, aimed at providing a reliable determination of conformity to the applicable requirements for certification, conducted by a competent audit team, with adequate resources and following a consistent process, with the results reported in a consistent manner.
ISO 17021 is intended for use by CBs that carry out audit and certification of management systems. It gives generic requirements for such CBs performing audit and certification in the field of quality, environmental and other forms of management systems. These CBs (also called Registrars) can be non-governmental or governmental (with or without regulatory authority) and they do not need to offer all types of management system certification.
More and more organizations are seeking certification of their management systems (quality, environmental, OH&S, etc.) to demonstrate that it conforms to specified requirements, is capable of consistently achieving its stated policy and objectives, and is effectively implemented. The conformity assessments done by ISO 17021 certified CBs provide value to these organizations, its customers and interested parties by assuring them that:
- They are competent to evaluate their management system(s).
- The value of the issued certificate will be recognized by all the organization’s interested parties.
The bodies that certify if a CB is operating to ISO 17021 are called Accreditation Bodies, and the CBs accredited by them are referred to as Accredited Certification Bodies. It’s not mandatory for a CB to comply with ISO 17021 in order to perform conformity assessments and issue a given certificate; however, the value of the certificate issued may not be recognized by all stakeholders.
The following referenced documents are indispensable for the application of this International Standard.
- ISO 9000, Quality management systems — Fundamentals and vocabulary.
- ISO/IEC 17000, Conformity assessment — Vocabulary and general principles.