Learn What Is the Difference Between Certification and Accreditation

‘Certification’ and ‘accreditation’ are two terms closely related to the declaration of conformity of an organization with specific regulatory requirements. They are often used interchangeably because in a general sense, they define the same thing. However, you would be surprised to know that there is a prominent difference between certification and accreditation. Even if they are the same in principle, there are clear differences in how they are done and by which body.

If you want to know what certification and accreditation mean for businesses, this blog is the right place to have stopped. Here we have defined both of the concepts in detail for your understanding.

Definition of Certification and Accreditation

Certification is the declaration of conformance of an organization, products, services, processes, or system to certain requirements of a regulatory standard designed by a highly authoritative body. The conformance is declared by a third-party assessment body after reviewing or auditing the system. The third-party independent body grants the certification in a written assurance document. They state in writing that an organization, products, services, or systems have absolutely met all the mentioned requirements of the standard.

Accreditation is the formal recognition offered by a recognized third-party to an assessment body. The recognition is provided when the body proves its competence in conducting specific assessment tasks. In simpler terms, accreditation is meant for the bodies or institutions that conduct technical inspections of different products or services.

Who does Certification and Accreditation Apply to?

Certification is a written declaration given to particular products, services, processes, companies, and even individuals when they satisfy a certain set of regulations.

Accreditation is clearly not meant for products, services, processes, or companies. It aims at testing and calibration centers, biomedical laboratories, product validation bodies, competency testing services providers, inspection bodies, research centers, regulators, governmental authorities, and other types of conformity assessment bodies (CABs).

Prominent Examples of Certification and Accreditation

Some of the clear examples of certifications are ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ISO 27001, ISO 13485, R2 certification, AS9100, and so on. These are certifications provided to companies as well as professionals when their products, services or management systems, or processes conform to specific requirements. Needless to say, any company or organization regardless of their size and specialty are liable to get a certification if they successfully prove their conformance following the audit.

A great example of accreditation is ISO 17025 which is provided to testing and calibration laboratories. Accreditations are of vast types: national, international and specialized. Accreditation is highly specific and only covers the activities that are meant to assess products, materials, or processes.

Two Distinct Approaches But Complementary to Each Other

Certification and accreditation are not procedures operating at the same level, but they truly complement each other. The former is also actually provided by independent certification bodies after they assess and audit organizations, their products or processes, and are convinced regarding their conformity to a standard’s requirements. The latter is provided by accreditation bodies that assess the competence of inspection bodies. Therefore, it can be said that both the terms constitute separate aspects but are an equivalent part of the conformity assessment chain.

This one example explains the complementary relation between accreditation and certification. The quality management system of an inspection laboratory gets certified with the international regulatory standard, ISO 9001. This certification shows that the system is efficient and continually improves to help the laboratory deliver reliable results. The accreditation on the other hand is a formal recognition provided to the laboratory to ascertain that its processes are not only organized but are also executed adhering to certain ethical codes of practices. Those codes of conducts are instituted by an internationally-acclaimed body.

This also explains why certification requires general assessment officials but accreditation needs both quality assessors and specialized experts with technical understanding of the particular field of inspection.

Key Takeaway!

By now, we hope you understand the difference between certification and accreditation. Certification is more comprehensive and has widespread applications. Any business, individual, product, process, or service can be certified. Accreditation is specific in application, meaning it applies only to field of competence i.e., for the inspection bodies. However, the benefits of both are same to their respective parties. With certification as well as accreditation, an organization can increase its chances to tender contracts and enhance operational efficiency.

If you are interested in any certification, we at Compliancehelp Consulting LLC, offer assistance for a range of certification standards including ISO 9001 quality management, ISO 14001 for environmental management, ISO 45001 for occupational health and safety management, and many more. If your organization is into assessment and conformity activities, then also we can help you transition from being a non-accredited body to an accredited body. Contact our experts today!

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