For foreign buyers seeking suppliers with extensive experience in ISO, China is not usually the first place they look.
Although China has the world’s largest number of certified ISO certificates, questions are often asked about both the validity and the value of these certificates.
In this article we explain some of the reasons behind this, and provide guidance on which ISO China certificates you can really trust.
Different Types of ISO China Certificates
There are many different types of ISO standards that are available. Here are some of the most popular ISO certifications held by Chinese companies:
- ISO 9001 – Quality Management System (most popular!)
- ISO 14001 – Environmental Management System
- ISO 13485 – Medical Devices Quality Management System
- ISO 22000 – Food Safety Management System
- ISO/TS 16949 – Automotive Quality Management System
- ISO/IEC 27001 – Information Security Management System
Although not an ISO standard most of the points raised in this article are also applicable to the following international standard:
- OHSAS 18001 – Occupational Health & Safety Management System
Carefully Read the Certificate
When you first receive an ISO China certificate it makes sense to spend a few minutes carefully reading details of the certificate to see if it makes sense.
Below is a picture of a Chinese ISO 9001 certificate, but the points we will discuss in this article are applicable to all such ISO certificates.
Here are a few things to look for:
Has It Expired?
Every ISO China certificate should have an expiry date on it, so make sure you check that the document has not expired.
ISO certificates are typically valid for three years so they do need updating quite regularly, however it is plain and simple, a good supplier should never provide you with an expired certificate.
Are Details Correct?
The following details should be included on all ISO certificates:
- Standard Number and Revision Year (e.g. ISO 9001:2015 or ISO 14001:2015)
- Company Name (If the name is different to the company you are dealing with you should ask why)
- Address (All locations covered by the certification should be listed on the certificate)
Is the Service Covered?
Each ISO China certificate includes a scope of certification so make sure the product/service you are interested in is covered.
Accreditation is Key
Generally speaking you should only trust ISO China certificates that have been issued by certification bodies which have been accredited to the relevant standard.
Accreditation bodies are there to ensure that certification bodies meet certain minimum requirements before issuing their certificates. They help ensure a level of accountability in the certification industry.
The logos of accreditation bodies are proudly displayed on a certification bodies’ ISO China certificate so you can easily identify who they are claiming accreditation with.
If an ISO China certificate doesn’t display any accreditation logos it is likely that the certification body isn’t accredited – this is not a certificate you should trust.
Another activity that we have heard of is accredited Chinese certification bodies offering “non-accredited” certifications at a discounted price – this is a dubious practice and these certificates should also not be trusted.
Accreditation in China
Accreditation of certification bodies in China is performed by CNAS (China National Accreditation Service), which is China’s sole member of IAF (the International Accreditation Forum).
CNAS accredits certification bodies for the following common ISO standards:
- ISO 9001
- ISO 14001
- ISO 22000
- ISO/IEC 27001
- OHSAS 18001 (not an ISO standard)
Note that CNAS do not currently accredit certification bodies to ISO 13485 (Medical Devices) or ISO/TS 16949 (Automotive).
Certificates by certification bodies that are accredited by CNAS can be given a basic level of trust, but it is greatly preferable if the certification body is also accredited internationally.
Many countries also have their own ISO accreditation bodies which are similar systems to CNAS. Of these, some have gained a more international profile with many foreign certification companies signing up for accreditation.
The most prominent of which is UKAS, but JAS-ANZ and ANAB are also popular:
- UKAS (United Kingdom Accreditation Service)
- JAS-ANZ (Joint Accreditation System of Australia and New Zealand)
- ANAB (The ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board – USA)
ISO China certificates issued by certification bodies accredited by these international accreditation bodies can be given a high level of trust.
ISO/TS 16949 Accreditation
Accreditation to this standard worldwide is managed by a single accreditation body:
Important to Verify ISO China Certificates
So you’ve carefully checked the details on a Chinese ISO certificate and identified which certification body issued the certificate and their accreditation, what else is left to do?
Answer: Verify, verify, verify!
Regrettably, fake ISO China certificates are quite common and you really need to verify that a certificate is legitimate before you can trust it.
It is possible to verify an ISO China certificate yourself but depending on who issued the certificate and your ability to communicate in Chinese this may be difficult.
China Checkup makes this process easy – we offer convenient certificate verification on a wide range of ISO China certificates. Check out our related services here.