Accredited certification delivers real added value
by IAF Communications and Marketing Committee
To gain a clearer understanding of the ‘value’ of accredited certification, IAF carried out a survey of businesses in 40 different economies. The survey aimed to clarify the drivers for seeking certification, the factors involved in choosing a certification body, and the extent of any benefit derived from the certification process. A full report of the results can be downloaded from the IAF website.
Over 4,000 responses were received from businesses of all sizes operating across a diverse range of industries. While the majority of respondents were responsible for managing quality within their organization, over a quarter of respondents were either finance directors, marketing managers or other senior management personnel. This indicates that the value of certification is recognized across the spectrum of business functions, and not just in the traditional quality management arena.
This is positive news for accreditation bodies that invest a significant amount of time and resources in raising awareness of the benefits of accredited certification among businesses, government departments and regulators. The primary motivation for this is to enable organizations to make an informed choice on which certification bodies they use. Using an accredited certification body should assure the organization that it will get the business benefits and value it pays for. But was this recognized by those who responded to the IAF survey?
The real value of certification
Over 80% of all respondents reported that certification had added value to their organization. As a more quantifiable measure, around half of all participants have seen an increase in sales as a direct result of the certification.
Internal business improvement was given by nearly half of all participants as the main driver for seeking certification, while approximately one third said it was a requirement of their customers. However, respondents overwhelmingly stated that certification was important to their customers. Despite only 12% citing it as the main reason for gaining certification, over 80% confirmed that certification had helped them meet national regulatory requirements.
Taken together, these figures indicate that certification is something that organizations are choosing to seek, primarily to improve internal operations and to provide customer confidence, rather than something that is done begrudgingly merely to tick compliance boxes. It’s not just the larger companies that are realising these benefits though, as nearly two thirds of respondents work in SMEs, half of which have less than 50 employees.
How important are certification bodies?
Over 90% of those who took part in the survey confirmed that their certification body was accredited by a recognized accreditation body, with nearly three quarters stating that accreditation was either essential or very important in their line of business. Only 3% reported that accreditation was not important. When asked about the importance of the certification being covered by the IAF Multilateral Recognition Agreement (MLA), 35% stated that the acceptance of their certification in overseas markets was very important.
The survey also revealed that the vast majority of organizations use certification bodies that are based in their local economy, with less than one in 10 seeking certification from an overseas organization. To help them through the process, 60% of respondents reported that they commissioned the services of an external consultant.
Is there value for money?
While the survey identified that achieving certification could be fairly complex, businesses rated the competence of accredited certification bodies highly, and confirmed that the time to navigate the process met with their expectations. Asked whether the certification bodies provide value for money, 62% of respondents agreed.
The findings of the survey confirm that businesses are generating significant benefits and added value from accredited certification. Not only is it being used as a tool to deliver internal business improvement and to meet regulatory compliance, but businesses confirm that it has a positive effect on revenue. Given that the majority of businesses that responded to the survey (57%) employed less than 249 people, accredited certification clearly benefits small to medium sized organisations, as well as large multinationals.
Businesses taking part also reported high levels of satisfaction with the certification process in terms of the timeframe to achieve certification and the competence of the assessment teams. Given these positive findings, businesses perceive accredited certification as providing value for money.
Nearly all of the businesses that took part in the survey (91%) selected an accredited certification body, providing an assurance that these organisations have the required competence and impartiality to do so as evidenced by fulfilment of international standards and requirements.
The IAF has an ongoing initiative to capture feedback from the market in order to deliver value added outcomes, and so we would like to thank those who took part in the survey. IAF would also like to thank Databuild, a leading independent market research company, for their help in developing the survey and approving the results.