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About IAF

Q - What is the role of IAF?

A - IAF is a global network of accreditation bodies and other organisations involved in conformity assessment activities. Its key roles include:

• to maintain and expand the Multilateral Recognition Arrangement (MLA), between accreditation body members, with the aim of reducing risk to business and its customers and ensuring that an accredited certificate may be relied upon anywhere in the world;

• to develop and harmonize accreditation practices across the world; and

• to promote accreditation as an effective mechanism for providing confidence in goods and services, which is essential to global trade facilitation.

Q - Who are the members of IAF? 

A - There are two different categories of Membership to the IAF:

Accreditation Body Members

IAF Signatories
Accreditation body members of IAF achieve IAF MLA Signatory status after a full evaluation of their operations by a peer evaluation team, which is tasked to ensure that the applicant member complies fully with both the international standards and IAF requirements. Once an accreditation body is a signatory of the IAF MLA it is required to recognise and promote certificates issued by certification bodies accredited by all other signatories with the scope of the IAF MLA.

IAF Members that are not yet signatories
Membership of IAF is open to accreditation bodies that conduct and administer programmes by which they accredit bodies for certification of quality systems, products, services, personnel, and environmental management systems, as well as other programmes of conformity assessment. Accreditation body members must declare their intention to join the IAF Multilateral Recognition Agreement (MLA) recognising the equivalence of other members' accreditations to their own.
 
Association Members
Association Members are organisations or associations that represent a similar group of entities internationally or within an economy or region. These entities are associated with the programmes of IAF Accreditation Body Members and fully support IAF objectives.

IAF may grant Special Recognition status to organisations that share a common objective. Organisations granted Special Recognition status may participate at IAF Member meetings but are not eligible to vote. There are two categories of Special Recognition Organisations; Regional Accreditation Groups and Observer Organisations:

Regional Accreditation Groups
Special Recognition status may be granted to Regional Accreditation Groups where the IAF's multilateral recognition arrangement is promoted. Regional groups of Accreditation Bodies that operate a Regional Multilateral Recognition Arrangement based upon the same set of normative criteria used by the IAF in its peer evaluation process  are eligible for Special Recognition status in IAF.

Observer Organisations
Observers are granted Special Recognition status where IAF believes it is in the best interests of Members to develop closer relationships with another body. This includes key stakeholder organisations, such as standards bodies, industry representations and regulatory bodies.

Q - How is the IAF structured?

A - IAF is an international association of organisations that work together to achieve common trade facilitation objectives. The terms of reference, tasks and duties of the Members, the Board of Directors, and the Secretary are defined by the Bylaws and the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

The highest level of authority in IAF is the Members in a General Meeting. General Meetings make decisions and set policy on behalf of members. The Board is responsible for legal actions to be carried out on behalf of the members, for developing broad policy directions and for ensuring that the day-to-day work of IAF is carried out in accordance with the approved policies.

The Executive Committee is responsible to the Board of Directors for the day-to-day work of IAF based on decisions made by Members and directions from the Board of Directors.

The relationships between the various parts of the organisation of IAF can be found in IAF PL 5 which can be downloaded from the Policy Documents section of the site.

Q - What type of documents does IAF publish?

A - IAF publishes several documents to communicate policy decisions and rules, share best practices, and support accreditation body and conformity assessment body operations. These documents, which are under constant review, are core to the effective operation of IAF, and support IAF’s objective of certified once accepted everywhere.

All IAF documents are clearly categorised depending on the nature or purpose of the document. Some contain mandatory requirements, however others are available for advisory or informative purposes.

The categories are as follows:

Policy Documents (PL Series): Policy documents set out the governance requirements that IAF members are expected to follow, as well as the IAF position on current issues.

Multilateral Recognition Arrangement (MLA) Documents - (ML Series): IAF Guidance documents are based on the experience of accreditation bodies in applying the relevant ISO/IEC Guides in practice, and represent agreement among IAF members on best practices in the application of those Guides.  Accreditation bodies that are members of the MLA are required to adopt the IAF Guidance as part of their general rules of operation.

IAF Guidance Documents (GD Series): IAF publishes guidance for the use of accreditation bodies when accrediting certification bodies to assure that they also operate their programmes in a consistent and equivalent manner.

IAF Informative Documents (ID Series): Informative Documents reflect the consensus of IAF members on a given subject and are intended to support the consistent application of requirements.  As these documents are for information purposes only, accreditation body members, and the conformity assessment bodies they accredit, are not under any obligation to use or comply with these documents.

IAF Mandatory Documents (MD Series): IAF publishes Mandatory Documents which are required to be used by accreditation bodies when accrediting certification bodies to assure that they operate their programs in a consistent and equivalent manner. Mandatory documents are not intended to establish, interpret, subtract from or add to the requirements of any ISO/IEC Guide or Standard, but simply to assure consistent application of those Guides or Standards.

Procedures Documents (PR Series): IAF Procedures documents set out the procedures to be followed in implementing the IAF program, including the procedures and processes which must be followed in order to satisfy the IAF Objectives, Certificate of Incorporation and Bylaws.

IAF-ILAC Joint Publications (A Series): This category includes documents that are published jointly with ILAC, and are used in the the evaluation of regions, and unaffiliated bodies.

Documents for General Information:  IAF publishes a number of documents which are made available to assist businesses, regulators and other parties gain a better understanding of IAF and its operations. 

Promotional Documents:  IAF publishes a range of promotional document for use by IAF members, their accredited certification bodies and other stakeholders interested in accreditation.

About Accreditation

Q - What is conformity assessment?

A - Conformity assessment is the demonstration that what is being supplied actually meets the requirements specified or claimed. Conformity assessment can be applied to a product or a service, a process, a system, an organisation or persons and includes activities such as testing, inspection, and certification.

Demonstrating compliance with standards and other criteria assumes greater importance to consumer confidence as products and services become increasingly technically complex. Conformity assessment is therefore an indispensable part of an economy’s business and standards and conformance infrastructure.

Q - What is accreditation?

A - Accreditation is the independent evaluation of certification bodies against recognised standards to ensure their impartiality and competence to carry out specific activities, such as tests, calibrations, inspections and certifications.

The IAF operates in the fields of management systems, products, services, personnel and other similar programmes of conformity assessment, while laboratory and inspection accreditation is managed at the global level by the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC).

Through the application of national and international standards, government, procurers and consumers can therefore have confidence in the calibration and test results, inspection reports and certifications provided.

Accreditation bodies are established in many countries with the primary purpose of ensuring that certification bodies are subject to oversight by an authoritative body.

Q - What is an accreditation body? 

A - An accreditation body is an authoritative body that performs accreditation. In some instances, its authority is derived from government.

Its primary function is to assess, against internationally agreed standards, organisations that provide certification, testing, inspection and calibration services (collectively known as conformity assessment bodies). Accreditation demonstrates the competence, impartiality and performance capability of these organisations.

Accreditation bodies normally operate as non-profit distributing organisations.

The IAF operates in the fields of management systems, products, services, personnel and other similar programmes of conformity assessment, while laboratory and inspection accreditation is managed at the global level by the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC).

Q - What is an accredited body?

A - An organisation that provides certification, testing, calibration, inspection and other conformity assessment services can seek accreditation. An accredited body has demonstrated that it fully meet the requirements of relevant national and international standards.

The criteria for determining a certification body’s competence are based on the relevant national or international standard (such as ISO/IEC 17024, ISO/IEC Guide 65ISO/IEC 17021) and include: the qualifications required knowledge and skills, training and experience of staff; appropriate equipment that is properly calibrated and maintained; adequate quality assurance procedures; and appropriate sampling practices. 

Accredited bodies can be private or government owned, and can range in size from sole traders to large multi-disciplinary, multi-site organisations.

The IAF operates in the fields of management systems, products, services, personnel and other similar programmes of conformity assessment, while laboratory and inspection accreditation is managed at the global level by the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC).

Q - What is certification?

A - Certification is a “third-party attestation related to products, processes, systems or persons,” as defined by ISO/IEC 17000 Conformity Assessment—Vocabulary and General Principles.

Certification is most often associated with ISO 9001 and the environmental management systems standard ISO 14001. However, certification programs exist for a range of management systems standards, including the ISO/IEC 2700 program for information security management and the ISO 22000 program for food safety management.

Product certification is the process of verifying that a product, including services and processes, meet requirements specified in contracts, regulations, or specifications.

In most countries, accreditation is voluntary, however, many certification bodies choose to seek accreditation in order to demonstrate third-party confirmation of their competence.

Q - What are the expected outcomes for accredited certification to ISO 9001 and ISO 14001?

A - ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 certification are frequently used in both private and public sectors to
increase confidence in the products and services provided by organizations, between partners in business-to-business relations, in the selection of suppliers in supply chains and in the right to tender for procurement contracts.

IAF and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) have jointly produced a concise statement of outcomes that are to be expected as a result of accredited certification to ISO 9001. The intent is to promote a common focus throughout the entire conformity assessment chain in order to achieve these expected outcomes and thereby enhance the value and relevance of accredited certification.

The following documents can be downloaded from Documents for General Information:

Expected Outcomes for Accredited Certification to ISO 9001

Expected Outcomes for Accredited Certification to ISO 14001

The IAF MLA

Q - What is the IAF MLA?

A - Accreditation bodies, which have been evaluated by peers as competent, have signed an arrangement, the IAF Multilateral Recognition Arrangement (MLA), that enhances the acceptance of goods and services across national borders.

The purpose of the MLA, is to ensure mutual recognition of accredited certification between signatories to the MLA, and subsequently acceptance of accredited certification in many markets based on one accreditation.

Signatories must recognise and support acceptance of certificates issued by organisations accredited by all other signatories of the MLA, provided the certificates are issued within the scope of the IAF MLA signatory.

This recognition and acceptance removes technical barriers to trade (TBT) by reducing redundant conformity assessment.

Accreditations granted by IAF MLA signatories should be recognised worldwide based on their equivalent accreditation programs, reducing costs and adding value to business and consumers.

Q - What are the scopes of the IAF MLA?

A - The scope of the IAF MLA includes two components; main scope and sub-scope. There are currently two main scopes:
Management Systems Certification (ISO/IEC 17021) and Accreditation of Product Certification (ISO/IEC Guide 65).

There are two sub-scopes for Management Systems:
ISO 9001 and ISO 14001.

A main scope means certificates are ‘equally reliable’ because the certification bodies conform to the same standard.

A sub-scope means the certificates are ‘equivalent’ because the management systems, products, services or persons conform to the same standard.

Q - Where can I find further information on the IAF MLA?

This website contains comprehensive information on the IAF MLA structure, process and a full list of Signatories. Further information is available under the IAF MLA and IAF Members and Signatories sections.

IAF publish an annual report which can ce downloaded from the Promotional Documents section that details the on-going activity to maintain the integrity and consistency of the IAF MLA.

Information for Regulators

Q - Where can I find a list of MLA signatories?

A full current list of IAF MLA Signatories can be found in IAF Members and Signatories. Full contact details are also provided. 

Q - Who is the IAF contact in my economy?

A - Click on your economy under the IAF Members and Signatories tab, to access full contact details, including the address, telephone number, email address and a link to the accreditation body website.

Q - Where can I get a list of accredited certification bodies in a particular economy?

A - Accreditation bodies in many economies publish hardcopy or online lists or directories of the certification bodies that they have accredited, together with certification body contact details and information on their scope. Visit the accreditation body website to find out further information, by clicking on your economy under the list of Signatories.

Q - What are the benefits of the MLA for Regulators?

A - The IAF MLA provides governments and regulatory agencies with a credible and robust framework on which to further develop and enhance government to government bilateral and multilateral international trade agreements.

It represents an internationally recognised ‘stamp of approval’ to demonstrate compliance against agreed standards and requirements. Consequently, risk is minimised, as decisions will be based on reliable certificates.

Many specifiers, such as government agencies, have recognised the importance of credible accreditation programs that are developed against internationally recognised standards. Accreditation and the IAF MLA help regulators meet their own legislated responsibilities by providing a globally recognised system to accept accredited certification.

The longer term aim is the fully accepted use and recognition, by both public and private industries, of accredited certification, including certificates from other economies. In this way, the free-trade goal of “certified once, accepted everywhere” will be realised.

Information for Purchasers

Q - What are the benefits of using an accredited certification body?

Selecting the right organisation to carry out your certification can be fraught with unknowns. Choosing a certification body that has been accredited by an accreditation body that is a signatory to the IAF Multilateral Recognition Arrangement (MLA) has proved that it complies with best practice. It is competent to deliver a consistently reliable, and impartial and accurate service which meets the appropriate, internationally-recognised standard.

Using an accredited certification body can:

• de-risk your procurement by taking the guesswork out of choosing a certification body by giving you confidence that you will get the service that closely meets your requirements;

• win new business particularly since the use of accredited conformity assessment services is increasingly a stipulation of specifiers in both the public and private sector;

• gain access to overseas markets since certificates issued by bodies that are accredited by an IAF MLA signatory are recognised and accepted throughout the world;

• help to identify best practice since the certification body is required to have appropriate knowledge of your business sector;

• offer market differentiation and leadership by showing to others credible evidence of good practice;

• demonstrate due diligence in the event of legal action;

• reduce paperwork and increase efficiency by reducing the need to re-audit your business.

 

Q - Where can I find a list of MLA signatories?

A - A full current list of IAF MLA Signatories can be found in IAF Members and Signatories. Full contact details are also provided. 

Q - How can I find out if a certificate is covered by the IAF MLA?

A - Purchasers wishing to confirm the validity of an accredited certification should refer in the first instance to the Certification Body shown on the certificate.  The IAF website does not list accredited Certification Bodies.  If the address or website of the Certification Body is unknown, this can be found from an internet search or from the Accreditation Body whose Mark should also be found on the certificate.  The address or website of the relevant Accreditation Body can be found in IAF Members and Signatories(by name).  Clicking on the Accreditation Body's name on their entry page will link directly to the website where information on the Certification Bodies accredited by that Accreditation Body should be available.

Q - How can I make a complaint about the operation of an IAF Member or a certification body?

A - IAF treats any complaints with the utmost concern and will deal with them expeditiously and in confidence.

In the first instance, complaints against a conformity assessment body should be lodged with that particular organisation. If the matter cannot be resolved within a satisfactory timeframe, the complainant has the right to refer the matter to the local accreditation body. If the complaint still cannot be resolved, then the complaint should be referred to the regional cooperation (if applicable), and then to IAF.

Anyone wishing to submit a complaint should do so by emailing the relevant details to the IAF Corporate Secretary together with any necessary documentation required to substantiate the complaint.

A copy of the IAF mechanism for dealing with complaints is available for information from IAF PR1:2004 Procedure for the Investigation and Resolution of complaints which can be downloaded from Procedure Documents.

Information for Accreditation Bodies

Q - How can I become a member of IAF? 

A - Accreditation Body Membership of IAF is open to bodies that conduct and administer programmes by which they accredit bodies for certification of quality systems, products, services, personnel, environmental management systems as well as other programmes of conformity assessment, providing those bodies are willing to allow their accreditation systems to be used by other IAF Members. 

Special recognition status is also available for organisations with an interest in accredited conformity assessment.

Application forms are available for download from Documents for General Information.

Q - What are the advantages of IAF Membership?

A - IAF Membership offers several advantages for your organisation and your economy:

• The opportunity to become a signatory of the IAF MLA, thereby providing international recognition for your accredited bodies;

• The opportunity to learn from, and interact with, experienced accreditation bodies to assist with the development of your system;  

• Interaction with other developing accreditation systems to share experiences and seek common solutions to problems;

• The opportunity also to represent, and inform, your constituents on important matters in the international conformity assessment arena;

• Participation in the IAF annual general assembly; 

• Participation in IAF committees covering policy matters, technical issues, promotion and marketing, certification representation and development support for new accreditation systems; 

• Access to the IAF intranet which provides access to the latest drafts of IAF documents (for comment and voting), a range of IAF resource material, and information from IAF committees.

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