This simple question is one we are frequently asked by our clients– just why should we seek certification and what benefits is it going to bring us?
The answer to this will depend upon the organisation, how much effort will be required to gain certification and the commercial benefits that may be generated by being able to promote the certification held.
We like to think that there are several key areas that will benefit from certification – of any standard (9001, 14001, 45001 etc..). These are
- Improvements in efficiency and productivity– leading to reduced losses (waste), lower costs per unit of production and increased profit
- Improvements in meeting and maintaining regulatory requirements associated with your product or service
- Commercial benefits including improvement in company image, reputation and access to markets
All management system standards are designed to provide a framework that deliver continual improvement in what you do. This can be in quality (ISO 9001 or ISO 13485), environmental performance (ISO 14001), health and safety performance (ISO 45001) or information security arrangements (ISO 27001). Improvements will lead to better ways of working, of reducing the possibility of loss or rework and to less stoppage due to incidents.
It can be difficult to generate a financial measure of these improvements; these contribute towards avoidance or reduction in costs in many cases, it is difficult to see what you have avoided paying. For example, by having robust quality management systems there will be a reduced risk of product or service failure/reject or rework. An environmental management system should contribute towards lower utility bills, reduced likelihood of environmental incident and less waste.
Most organisations are clearly looking for improvements all the time, irrespective of their status of certification. However, those who are certified must demonstrate and provide evidence that they are seeking and implementing improvement. Failure to do so can be a risk to certification maintenance.
Being certified is not in itself a regulatory requirement. However, if you provide any kind of product and service there will likely be a wide range of regulations associated with it and with how you delivery/manufacture.
ISO 9001 clearly requires that you have in place a process for understanding regulatory requirements of what you do. The system must be proactive so that there is no danger to you being on the wrong side of the law when anything changes or is updated.
ISO 14001 and ISO 45001 have additional, specific requirements on environmental and health and safety law. This places an obligation upon any organisation with certification to review, understand and demonstrate full compliance. This exercise alone provides top management with the reassurance that they have reduced risk regarding regulatory requirements and the reputational issues that may occur should there ever be a prosecution against them.
ISO 27001 also states that any organisation seeking certification has a system to understand the regulations relevant to its activities and what it will do to ensure full compliance. With recent changes in legislation here, and with some of the largest potential fines for failing to comply, certification here can pay for itself many times over!
Investing the time and money into certification shall provide you with a commercial return. If you are a commercial organisation you need to have confidence that this investment will be worthwhile and will not become an unnecessary burden on your finances or personnel.
Some of the key commercial benefits of certification include:
- Providing current and prospective clients the assurance that you are a great organisation to work with
- Gaining access to markets that are closed to you without certification
- Building up long-lasting and mutually beneficial relationships with clients and suppliers
Your prospective clients do not need to know how you work, what systems you have in place or how complicated your processes are. However, certification provides them with evidence (and assurances) that you do have robust systems that will deliver the products/services on time, consistently, at the agreed price and without exposing them to regulatory risk. This alone can place you at an advantage over your competition.
Remember that to gain this benefit you need to tell interested parties that you hold certification! This means including appropriate logos and messages about certification on your marketing materials and website, mentioning certification with quotes and proposals and attaching copies of your certificates along with any pre-qualification questionnaires you may submit.
Access to Markets
Simply, without certification you cannot submit a tender or proposal or in some cases you would be at a significant disadvantage if certification is not held. Requirements for certification vary by sector and products/services. However, it is our experience that with increasing value of contract the likelihood of requiring certification grows. For public sector work you also might need to demonstrate that certification is held.
In completing questionnaires for work it can also sometimes be easier to simply ‘tick the box’ that certification is held rather than invest further time and effort in completing several pages of questions.
All of the above benefits will not apply to every organisation. However, it is our experience that, once held, the true value of certification becomes apparent to an organisation and we have no knowledge of anyone subsequently giving up on it!
If you would like to discuss your own organisation and how it might gain from certification, or if you need help on the journey, just give us a call on 01236 734447.