EXTRACT FROM ENDS REPORT #364 MAY 2005
"Re-published with permission from Environmental Data Services Ltd (ENDS). Originally published in The ENDS Report, Issue 364, 2005.
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4 ENDS Report 365 ! June 2005
IS014001 certification bodies complain of unfair competition
ISO14001 CERTIFICATION BODIES in the UK are complaining at being undercut by competitors who are not recognised by the official UK Accreditation Service (UKAS) or any affiliated body. Some have called for such firms to be outlawed. But non-UKAS accredited bodies argue that they offer a legitimate service which they claim is better geared to client needs. One even boasts energy regulator Of gem among its clients.
In January, ENDS covered a court case involving household appliance recycling and refurbishing firm Global Environmental Recycling of Birkenhead (ENDS Report 360, p 54). Despite holding an ISOl4001 certificate, the company had stockpiled several thousand fridges six-feet high on a site which had no waste licence and had thereby escaped regulatory oversight. The company was fined £13,000.
The Association of British Certification Bodies and individual certification bodies complained that our article should have made it clear that the certificate had not been awarded by a UKAS accredited firm.
Certification firms accredited by UKAS are expected to operate under internationally agreed standards specifying competencies of assessors, the quality of their assessments and integrity measures such as the separation of consultancy services from assessment for certification.
This is not to say that companies holding 15014001 certificates from UKAS-accredited firms have an unblemished record. Successful prosecutions against such companies have been brought on several occasions. Recent examples include Ford (ENDS Report 361, p 59), paper manufacturer Inveresk (ENDS Report 348, p 47) and Ibstock Brick (ENDS Report 347, p 64).
In the case of Global Environmental Recycling, however, the certificate was awarded by Worcester-based firm Certified Quality Systems (CQS) -which claims to have been accredited by the International Accreditation Board. The IAB has no affiliation to UKAS.
CQS's website indicates that it operates on a "no certificate, no fee" basis that aims to keep the process of certification simpIe, quick -within six to eight weeks -and realistically priced.1 Fees are geared to the turnover of the client. Ironically, from the point of view of Global Environmental Recycling, it says the "ISO l4001 system will protect the company, its directors and employees from prosecution."
The IAB gives little information on its website about its guidance on the operation of certification bodies, and does not list the companies that it has accredited. When asked for these details, an IAB representative said that the person authorised to deal with such enquiries was travelling and that it was unclear when he would be able to respond.
There are several other non-UKAS accredited firms offering services in the UK. One such firm, Quality Management Systems International, carries an article in its newsletter to say that it has awarded an 1S014001 certificate to energy regulator Ofgem. Ofgem confirmed in April that this was the case.
Like CQS, QMS also offers a time- and cost-saving approach to 1S014001 certification. This is said to "effectively eliminate the need for you to employ a consultant" by combining the tasks of preparing the required documentation and undertaking an assessment at the same time.
Like CQS, QMS's fees are proportionate to clients' turnover. QMS is accredited by a body called the International Accreditation Council (IAC). This offers virtually no information on its website, apart from a statement that it supports mutual recognition between accreditors worldwide. The lAB website carries an identical statement.
Yet neither the IAB nor the IAC are linked to the International Accreditation Forum, the body recognised by many governments as the authority on guidance for conformity assessment bodies, including those assessing against management standards such as 1S014001 and the quality management standard IS09001. Unlike the others, the IAF offers detailed information on its processes, guidance and members on its website.
Given the similarity of the accreditation organisations' names and even their logos, there is clearly potential for confusion.
UKAS is a member of the IAF and is the only body authorised to undertake negotiations on its guidance on behalf of the UK and to accredit certification bodies against these standards under a memorandum of understanding signed with the Department of Trade and industry. Other national accreditation bodies have similar arrangements with their governments.
However, there is nothing illegal about the IAB or the IAC, as UKAS itself points out: "We accept that it is not mandatory for a certification body to be accredited by UKAS or any other accreditation body that is a signatory of the IAF multilateral agreement".
In 2000, UKAS and the DTI launched a national accreditation awareness campaign to emphasise the benefits of UKAS accreditation and its associated internationally peer-reviewed and transparent processes. The DTI also organised a series of - workshops for Government Departments and businesses to encourage recognition of UKAS-accredited firms in the interests of maintaining confidence in the certification process.
At that time the focus was mainly on 1SO9001 quality management certificates awarded by non-UKAS accredited bodies - estimated to be some 20% of the total and rising.
UKAS has published awareness-raising brochures -with limited reach -warning companies of the risk that while they- may feel that they are saving money by opting for a cheaper non- UKAS accredited certification body, they may lose out if their certificates are not accepted by a customer.
UKAS certification body clients put it more strongly. The Association of British Certification Bodies, which speaks for about a third of UKAS-accredited bodies, said it .deplores" the activities of those who choose not to be bound by UKAS rules.
According to Tim Inman of the ABCB, such bodies "have placed themselves outside the recognised framework established to ensure the maintenance of integrity in the accreditation and certification processes." He noted that the Government has been pressed to outlaw the existence of "unrecognised" accreditation bodies and their clients.
ABCB members and other certification bodies are particularly angered at losing contracts to non-UKAS accredited companies at a time when they and UKAS have come under pressure to raise their own standards of assessment in order to deliver better results for the environment. This is likely to lead to an increase in the cost of accreditation (ENDS Report 360, pp 5-6).
Responding to such criticisms, Peter Gamble, managing director of QMS in the UK, said the company chose not to be accredited by UKAS because that approach was perceived by customers to be "unnecessarily complicated and bureaucratic".
"Our desire to provide a simple and cost-effective service is, therefore, incompatible with UKAS."
Mr Gamble said QMS's assessors work to the company's own standards and are accredited by the IAC. QMS is also said to abide by the European standard EN45102 which specifies requirements for bodies certifying against quality management systems.
Asked how QMS was able to cut the costs of assessment compared with those of UKAS-accredited firms, he said the company did this by simplifying the process. "We believe that our service is better than UKAS (sic) as we assist the organisation to develop an environmental management system that works for the organisation and not against it."
He argued that customers that have a complaint about a company with an 1S014001 certificate can take action through trading standards legislation.
QMS's approach is clearly appealing to many firms. The company has offices in 10 countries and has issued over 12,000 1SO9001 and 1S014001 certificates in 54 countries. ENDS
1 CQS at www.iso9001certification.co.uk 2 IAB at www.i-a-b.ch 3 QMS at www.qmsuk.com 4 IAC at www.intacco.com 5 IAF at www.iaf.nu 6 UKAS at www.ukas.com