Is UKAS accredited certification really that important?

I write this post with two hats on, as a business owner of a UKAS accredited certification body and also as the Chair of the Federation of Certification Bodies.

Unfortunately, just this week I have received (again) a telephone call from a company asking me why their ISO certificates are not being recognised by their supply chain during tender submissions.  The outcome from the discussion is that their supply chain demands government recognised accredited certification (this is UKAS in the United Kingdom).  They explained to me that they have spent a large sum of money to become certified only to find that their prospective customers are rejecting their tender submission because the issuing certification body is not UKAS accredited.  Not only that, they are tied into payments with the certification body for 10 years.

If your business identifies the need to become certified to a management system standard (for example: ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ISO 22000, ISO 45001, etc.) then please consider the importance of choosing a certification body that is accredited by a government appointed body such as the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS).

After spending the last 20 years working in management system certification and the last 8 years in a senior position, I can tell you that becoming an accredited certification body is not an easy task.  Accreditation bodies like UKAS cross-examine certification bodies across a whole range of internationally recognised standards and requirements to ensure their systems, technical competence and impartiality is tip top.  My background is primarily in rail regulation in the UK and Europe and when comparing the two, I’d go back to rail any day if it came down to ease.  My point is that UKAS accredited certification bodies are really put to the test, it’s not a once a year audit, they are continuously assessed and equally, their auditors are witnessed assessed by UKAS for each technical area.  UKAS assessments can be up to 50 days (and more) per year for some bodies.  I make these points not to moan, but to emphasise the integrity of a government recognised accredited certification body.

So if your business needs certification to a management system standard such as ISO 9001, please do the due diligence with your supply chain to check if they expect a UKAS accredited certificate. You can check if a certification body is UKAS accredited here.

Gary Jones
Director at Atlas Certification and Chair of the Federation of Certification Bodies