So What is Accreditation and What is Certification?, when they appear to be the same thing and many people use the terms interchangeably. They are not the same & this article will explain the difference.
This article, I will describe the difference between “accreditation” and “certification as these words are, often, used interchangeably but they are distinct and different terms.
The terms “accreditation” and “certification” are used in relation to ISO International Standards. So, a good place to look for their definitions in the recently published ISO/IEC 17000:2020. This is the International Standard, which is used to defined conformity assessment vocabulary and general principles.
What is “Accreditation”?
Under Clause 7.7, the term “accreditation” is defined, as:
This language is a bit difficult to understand, so I have inserted the full definitions for the supporting terms with their own clause numbers and definitions:
And, again, summarised the formal definition of accreditation, using my own shortening, to:
What is “Certification”?
So, with the definition of “accreditation” understood or at least defined, let’s now turn our attention to the definition of “certification”, which is defined as:
And, again, add in the full definitions for the supporting terms with their own clause numbers and definitions:
Then, summarise the formal definition of certification, using my own shortening, to:
Now, we have a working definitions for, both, accreditation and certification:
From there definitions, we can see the following key points:
Indeed, it is important to reflect on the ISO International Standards used for accreditation and certification.
The relationship between “Accreditation” and “Certification”
The diagram (below) visualises the relationship between the Accreditation Body, Certification Body and Certified Client,
The Accreditation Body is shown using ISO/IEC 17021-1:2015 as the basis for the assessment and recognition of Certification Bodies offering Management System Standards certification, such as ISO 14001:2015 and ISO 9001:2015.
Whereas, Certification Bodies are required to meet the requirements of ISO/IEC 17021-1:2015. And, if they can demonstrate conformity to its accreditation requirements then they can be recognised as accredited
The relationship between the certification body and their clients is the use of the Management System Standards, such as ISO 14001:2015. This forms the basis of their external auditing of their clients. If their client can demonstrate conformity to Management System Standards requirements then they can be recognised as certified.
How to use “Accreditation” and “Certification”
So to circle back to the original question, let’s summarise what is the correct use of the term certification and accreditation.
I hope that this content has advanced your understanding of the use of the terms accreditation and certification. Don’t forget to use them correctly in the future.
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