The Value of Accredited Certification

The International Accreditation Forum (IAF) has just breleased a new report on accredited certifications. The survey aimed to gain intelligence on the drivers for seeking certification,the selection criteria when choosing a body to provide certification services,the appropriateness of the process, and the positive outcomes of certification.  This report can be found here.


ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 are among the best known standards published by the International Organization for standardization. These international management system standards have been implemented by more than a million organizations in 175 countries. But many more organizations that could benefit from implementation of management system standards have yet to do so, even though there are compelling reasons to do so.

ISO 9001, ISO 14001, and other management system standards can provide a solid foundation on which to build an organization that can withstand the test of time and challenges of the marketplace. The principles of the standards can help involve and unite employees in working toward a shared goal. And implementation of a certified management system can be a source of employee pride and provide a competitive marketing and sales edge. For a low fee, the standards give organizations proven ideas, techniques, and principles that most could not afford to research on their own. And the immediate and long term benefits of certification can far outweigh the costs. In addition to increasing customer confidence in an organization, an accredited certification can help the organization operate more efficiently.

Recent Research
Here’s an overview of some recent research on the impact of management system implementation and certification:

Quality Management and Job Quality:
How the ISO 9001 Standard for Quality management Systems Affects Employees and Employers In this the first large-scale study to examine the effects of ISO 9001 on employee outcomes such as employment, earnings, and health and safety, David I. Levine of the University of California at Berkeley and Michael W. Toffel of the Harvard Business School analyzed a matched sample of nearly 1,000 companies in California. ISO 9001 adopters subsequently had far lower organizational death rates than a matched control group of non-adopters. Among surviving employers, ISO adopters realized higher rates of growth of sales, employment, payroll, and average annual earnings. Injury rates also declined slightly at ISO 9001 adopters, although total injury costs did not. The paper describes implications for managers and public policy. Key concepts include: • Companies that adopt ISO 9001 subsequently grow faster in sales, employment, payroll, and average annual earnings than a matched control group. ISO 9001 adopters are also more likely to remain in business. • ISO 9001 adopters subsequently became more likely to report zero injuries eligible for workers’ compensation. However, there is no evidence that a firm’s total or average injury costs improved or worsened subsequent to adoption.

Resolving Information Asymmetries in Markets:
The Role of Certified Management Programs Michael W. Toffel of the Harvard Business School conducted one of the first evaluations to determine whether a voluntary management program that features an independent verification mechanism is achieving its ultimate objectives. Using a sample of thousands of manufacturing facilities across the United States, he found evidence that ISO 14001 has attracted companies with superior environmental performance, and that adopters subsequently improve their environmental performance. These results suggest that robust verification mechanisms such as independent certification may be necessary for voluntary management programs to mitigate information asymmetries surrounding management practices. Implications are discussed for the industry-associations, government agencies, and the non-governmental organizations that design these programs, the companies that are investing resources to adopt them, and those that are relying on them to infer the quality of management practices.

Survey of ISO 14001 Certified Companies
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Risk Management and Decision Processes Center found that most of the ISO 14001 certificate holders responding to a national survey reported a relatively quick payback time on their investment. The survey data indicate that doing a thorough job up front in identifying environmental aspects and testing them for improvement leads to the bottom-line benefits that organizations expect from certification. Many organizations experienced a two-year financial payback, and some experienced a one-year return. The impact of internal gains in areas such as employee awareness, management awareness, and management involvement in environmental affairs was even greater, indicating that ISO certification streamlines a facility’s management system to produce long-term benefits. The Wharton survey was developed with input from ANAB and QSU Publishing Company.

Other Resources
The Third-Party Process: Waste of Resources or Added Value? Certification, registration, accreditation – the jargon of conformity assessment can be confusing. This white paper on the value of accredited certification covers the basics and then some.

This was reproduced by permission from the ANAB website.
The original can be found at