Corporate certification, quality Insurance

In the light of the fierce competition dictated by globalized economy, companies are now compelled to outline strategies for the conquest of market shares based on the search for the ever-increasing sophisticated management tools and voluntarist initiatives such as the quality insurance system and the ISO 9000 standards which had remained unknown up to the 1980s, and which are now the object of infatuation for companies. In the service sector, certification is regarded as a trust guarantee that renders a company's communication more credible.


Used with permission from MicrosoftCertification is a conformity certificate to a given system of reference (certifications, technical specifications and standards) delivered by an impartial and accredited body.

There are two distinct types of certifications:

Product certification and corporate certification (called Certification of Quality Insurance System or ISO 9000 Certification).

Whether applying to products or to companies, certification attests to the voluntary observance of the non-compulsory game rules.

The standard of quality insurance (QI) can be summed up into the motto: “Preach what you do. Do what you preach. Write it down”.


The Standard is a written document available to the public that establishes a progressive game rule dealing with technical specifications or guidelines, and whose observance is not mandatory.

The international standards provide a reference framework or a common technological language which is likely to facilitate technology exchange and transfer.

The standards are set by the concerned professions in association with their partners and their customers under the auspices of bodies acknowledged at the national, regional and international levels.

There are two types of standards: technical standards and management standards, as well as certification procedures to follow.

Standards are the outcome of hard work achieved by thousands of experts scattered among committees, sub-committees and technical working groups at the national, regional and international levels.

Quid of quality insurance's main standards

  • ISO 9000: Standards for the quality management and quality insurance. ISO 9000 is split into three parts:
    • ISO 9001: A model for quality insurance in terms of design, development, production, installation and related services,
    • ISO 9002: A model for quality insurance in terms of production, installation and related services,
    • ISO 9003: A model for quality insurance regarding monitoring and final trials.
  • ISO 9004: Quality management and quality system elements
  • ISO 10013: Guidelines for the elaboration of quality manuals
  • ISO 14000: Environmental management

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) started operating officially on February 23, 1947. It is an international non-governmental organization based in Geneva that federates national bodies of standardization in 156 countries. Its vocation is to harmonize and promote the international trade of goods and services and to foster cooperation in intellectual, scientific, technological and economic fields.

ISO: a word deriving from its Greek equivalent isos which means «equal».

ISO collaborates with other international bodies of standardization : International Electro-technical Commission (IEC), International Telecommunication Union (ITU) along with United Nations Organization and NGO specialized institutions and committees that are involved in standardization and regulations.

ISO is associated with the World Trade Organization for which it provides technical support.

ISO is not an audit, evaluation, registration or certification body. It elaborates international standards to meet market imperatives without managing any system as to its conformity with standards.

Evolution of standards

Used with permission from Microsoft (modified picture)Having become an international reference for quality requirements, the series ISO 9000 and 14000 are generic standards of independent management systems for any particular industrial or economic sector.
They are subject to regular reviews and updates. The latest standard model, ISO 9000: 2000, was introduced in December 2000. It takes over the 1994 standard and the former ISO 9001, 9002, 9003.

As far as the international organization is concerned, the latest review of the standards which aimed at optimizing its efficiency consisted in:

  • Reinforcing management involvement
  • Managing post certification
  • Restreaming certification towards client satisfaction
  • Giving priority to the efficiency of procedures and not to their conformity
  • Meeting the growing number of certification applications by the service sector
  • Improving the compatibility between ISO 9001 / 9004 quality management standards and those of ISO 14001 / 14004 environmental ones

The revised ISO 9001 and ISO 9004 standards are based on the principles of management that stand as a framework for the improvement of corporate performance. Such principles relate to:

  • Quality management system
  • Management responsibility
  • Resource management
  • Product realisation
  • Measurement, analysis, improvement

Corporate certification or certification of quality insurance system: principle

What is meant by quality insurance is “a set of pre-established and systematic necessary actions providing the customer with the appropriate confidence in the company's ability as a whole or in part to supply products or services of a given quality in a certain and regular manner.”

Its objective being to constantly put on the market products or services corresponding to the quality objectives set by the company exercising full control over risks and over product or service quality.

When dealing with products, services, systems or even persons, the certification procedure rests on two elements:

  • The company's commitment to meeting the provisions of the reference system adapted to its operations and to the type of expected recognition,
  • The verification by a certifying organism of its efficient implementation by the company.

Setting up a system of quality insurance means to be in conformity with the requirements set by the international standards of the ISO 9001 series, that is, a set of written procedures which will guide the company throughout the production process.

Certification being the written recognition of the compliance of the system put in place or products or services with the pre-established prescriptions of the standards.

Certification: objectives

Image provided to Microsoft by iStockphoto. Used with permission from MicrosoftThis is a management approach based on the demonstration of the reliability of a corporate organization. It requires the elaboration and the validation of a reference system as well as the intervention of a third party, that is, an approved certifying body which confirms that the organization system put in place observes a quality insurance system that complies with international standards, thus reassuring customers who trust the company that constant quality products and services are regularly provided.

For the companies that make recourse to it, this system of management displays multiple advantages pertaining to the company's image : a means of dialogue and confidence, a way of mobilizing human resources around concrete objectives, and a device to control costs.
The quality procedure is basically directed towards the constant satisfaction of the clients.

Certification: process

The approach varies according to the context. The procedure may be conducted by the company itself or entrusted to a firm of consultants. The first stage of the process, which requires prior audit, is the elaboration of a reference system that has to be validated.

The procedure is then transmitted to a certifying body which files a case and an application of certification for the company. The certifying body's task materializes through an audit of the company aiming at verifying its compliance with its commitments, the efficiency of its organization, and the material and human resources put in place so as to obtain certification.

At the end of a more or less long process through which the company may have been called upon to go ahead with the necessary corrective actions or to provide evidence of their efficiency, the certification committee decides to a three-year validity certificate.

In order to perpetuate the procedure, some companies subscribe to follow-up, maintenance and renewal audits, as well as satisfaction inquiry for customers so as to gauge the achieved progress and the impact of the commitment to quality insurance.

Role of certifying organisms

Used with permission from MicrosoftThere are numerous certifying organisms. They differ in their certification process, the range of their speciality, the level of recognition of their jurisdiction over some specific sectors of activity and international markets.

These organisms operate within the framework of deontological rules which forbid them from certifying a company which they have already assisted with its procedure.

The accreditation of certifying bodies aims at guaranteeing their impartiality and the aptitude of their processes and their competence. Accreditation is delivered to them by national committees in charge of guaranteeing to clients the conformity of the reference system in place and selected by the company. These companies proceed with an audit prior to the delivery of the requested certification.

The significance of certification to insurance

There are no systematic studies quantifying the impact and the advantages to corporate certification in the insurance sector specifically. Nonetheless, and according to some appraisals carried out by some companies, the delivery of the quality insurance certification according to ISO 9000 standards has resulted in:

  • A competitive advantage making selection easier during bids
  • The development of customer loyalty resulting from a surplus in trust
  • An increased notoriety thanks to an improved image through a more efficient communication
  • The enhanced value of human resources through the wider involvement of staff in the process of quality
  • Creation of a barometer to gauge clients' satisfaction
  • A better definition and distribution of tasks for the sake of a better management of human resources
  • Specific training programs according to the criteria of quality insurance, including the company's internal quality auditors
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