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The Value of the Implementation and Certification of Management Systems International Standards

By Pedro Alves

The implementation and certification of Management Systems International Standards, such as ISO 9001 and ISO 14001, has achieved high international recognition with more than 1 million organizations with their Quality Management Systems certified worldwide. Researchers have been paying considerable attention to this theme and the number of published articles has grown robustly (as clearly evidenced by the www.publicsectorassurance.org website) to illustrate the value of accredited conformity assessment and provide links to relevant independent research.

A 2017 study (recently submitted for publication), sponsored by The International Certification Network (IQNet) with the fundamental contribution of researchers from the Instituto Politecnico do Porto-Portugal and the Universidade Rey Juan Carlos, Madrid-Spain, aims to bring a longitudinal time perspective to this area of research, analyzing articles published since 1996, on the benefits of Management Systems Certification (MSC).

The research was supported with a Bibliometric Study, with data collected from Web of Science, SCOPUS, and Research Gate databases. Following the detailed analysis of the journal titles, article abstracts and their full content, an evaluation scale was applied to assess if the results support the existence of a positive relationship between MSC and economic, financial or stakeholder results.

The results show a steep increase in the number of publications addressing Management Systems Certification benefits. Most originate from Europe (48%) and East Asia and Pacific (23%), with Spain as the clear leading country, accounting for 43% of the total number of articles published between 1996 and April 2017. Other countries with highlighted contributions are USA, Malaysia, Italy, China, Brazil, Portugal, Greece, Australia, Croatia, and Canada, representing 11.6% of the total of published articles. Additionally, analyzing the content of the published papers, 91% have a single country scope, while 50% address only one activity sector.

The systematic review of the selected papers shows that Management Systems adoption and certification brings fairly positive benefits (average 2.34 in a 1 to 5 Likert type scale) for the certified organizations, although some variations are observed.

Analyzing the data through a different perspective, it can be noticed that approximately 90% of the research identified positive relations between MSC and economical, financial or stakeholder related results.

Although the current analysis points to the existence of a positive relationship between MSC and organizational performance and results, there are some inconsistencies and several studies that have found a neutral or even negative relationship between MSC and organizational performance and results.

These inconsistencies might be explained by concerns over reliability and lack of validation of measures, sampling and biases errors (e.g., Quality Managers might report more favorable impacts of QMS than CEOs), or no explanations for cause and effect relationships. Time is also an important variable to be considered, as some benefits can be realized in the short term (e.g. compliance with customer requirements, financial results) while others only in the long term (e.g., company image and reputation, employee motivation).

As so, IQNet (with the support of relevant academic organizations around the world) will continue to sponsor future studies to promote additional conclusions. Since more researchers are also focusing on non QMS/EMS studies, we expect that future analyses may also provide differentiated and representative results for other types of MSC.

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