Accredited and non-accredited certification

Up until quite recently I couldn’t get that excited about non-accredited certification bodies. For those of you that don’t know what that means, it’s a certification body that is not approved by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) or other national equivalent. They are effectively unregulated. A lot of people have a very strong bias against these non-accredited bodies, but I was never too bothered. My view was that there was nothing actually illegal in what they did, and if a company wanted to go with a (usually cheaper) non-accredited option, then that was their choice.

Recently, however, my opinions have been changing. Whilst I still believe there is nothing actually wrong with what non-accredited CBs do, and every company has a right to make a choice, I am coming across a number of companies who have clearly made that choice without either being made aware of their options or the limitations of the non-accredited certificate. Irrespective of what many non-accredited CBs may say on their websites, many customers simply do not accept non-accredited certificates at the PQQ stage, and in the past year I have come across 4 companies who have initially gone down the non-accredited route, only to have to start afresh after a period of time with an accredited CB when they have found that it has not helped them gain the access to contract opportunities that they had hoped. I would go so far as to say at least a couple had been deliberately misled in the process.

Often when a newish company decides that it needs to be certified in order to get access to bigger and better contracts, it does not fully understand either the certification process or its options. In most cases it does what the rest of us do at the first level of research – it googles. As I write, I have just googled “ISO 9001″ (probably the most likely thing typed in by a bewildered person) and the TOP THREE sponsored ads are ALL non-accredited certification bodies. So what? You may be thinking, well I’ll tell you. Non-accredited CBs know fine well who their target market is – clueless people googling “ISO 9001″ – so they make sure these people are captured at source and make sure they appear at the top of these searches. My guess is that these uninformed people are kept well and truly in the dark when it comes to the limitations of the non-accredited certificate and the existence of alternatives once the phone is picked up, and they only become informed when told “that’s no good – try again” when they try to use the certificate in a PQQ process.

These are my opinions, obviously, no companies are named or shamed specifically …

For a list of current UKAS accredited certification bodies, follow this link to the UKAS site

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8 Responses to “Accredited and non-accredited certification”


  1. Totally agree with you Shaun. I'm helping qualify a potentially new supplier in Eastern Europe for our company. As this supplier was starting to look to working with large multi-nationals they wanted to be able to say they were 9001 certified. They were very disappointed when I did not accept their non-accredited certificate but happy when I pointed them in the direction of a reputable and accredited CB whose costs were similar to the non-accredited firm.

  2. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Richard, and for verifying I'm not simply making this up

  3. Andy Nichols says:

    I'm happy to read you've come to the important conclusion Shaun. Some of the practices, including the experience/qualifications of auditors, of unaccredited CBs are, frankly, abysmal! One I know purports to be an RABQSA auditor, when all they are is a course attendee - and from other information I've seen, have some bizarre interpretations. Other organizations have had their documents written for them and then been held to account for silly typos or similar! Of course, without experience of being ISO certified, who would know this isn't "normal"? I have yet to grasp why accreditation, under the IAF, isn't better communicated, frankly - since it's so important.

  4. Shaun says:

    I've always known what they are and what they get up to, Andy, they've just occupied a tier of the business world that I've never needed to bother much with, but lately a couple have got their marketing act together and have started to encroach. They are starting to prey on start-ups who they know fine well are unlikely to understand the nature of the certification industry. These people neither ask for it nor deserve it. I'm quite happy for them to give plumbers and carpet fitters a nice looking little badge for the back of their vans

  5. Yes, they seem to have got rather more aggressive in their marketing and, as you say, definitely look to pick up the poor clueless companies who don't understand what they're getting into. I used not to bother much myself but they have also started to turn up a bit more in Australia. A blight indeed.

  6. Shaun says:

    They are indeed a blight, Jane. I did remark in my post that I never used to be that bothered about them, and that since they weren't illegal, a company had the right to make its own choice. However I now have more of a problem because in recent months I've come across many companies who, it would appear, were quite deliberately kept in the dark regarding their choices. I call that mis-selling, and mis-selling is wrong.

  7. Ashok Deobhakta says:

    Dear Mr. Shaun, Thank you for posting a very interesting and trending blog. You have rightly carried out the analysis and psychology as to why uninformed organizations fall pray to go for non-accredited bodies for certification. The comments also support your analysis to a large extent. In my opinion, equally vigorous marketing is required from the accreditation bodies; institutions like CQE, ASQ,CASCO and authorities responsible for promoting Conformity Mechanisms. Of course, not an easy job.

  8. Shaun says:

    They prey on the ignorant, Ashok. How likely is it that a major pharma, oil, aerospace or automotive company would entertain a non-accredited certificate? No chance, I'd suggest. This tells us all we need to know Shaun

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