Some people may not be aware, though, that an ISO 9001 certificate can contain similarly revealing information in its Scope of Certification.
Chinese ISO 9001 certificates vary in appearance depending on the certification body which issues them.
Generally speaking certified Chinese companies receive both an English and Chinese version of their certificate and they typically look something like the certificate below:
The organisation’s scope of certification is highlighted in yellow in the example above: “Manufacture and service of safety shoe / fireproof boot and work boot (for sale abroad)”.
Note that the unnatural English on the certificate is quite common in China as the staff from the certifying authority are usually not native English speakers. It is nothing to be concerned about on Chinese ISO certification that you see. In most cases you can also request to see the Chinese copy of the same certificate, as it is very common for the certificate to be issued in both languages.
A lot of the time, Chinese suppliers see ISO 9001 certification as just another bit of paper that may enable them to get more buyers. When you request to see it, don’t be surprised if the company’s staff take some time digging through files to find their documentation. In other words, ISO 9001 has not actually permeated their day-to-day operations.
Because of this, it may be easy to overlook the scope when viewing a Chinese company’s ISO 9001 certificate. From the perspective of many suppliers, the important thing is that they have the document at all, rather than what it certifies them for. Be sure to confirm that the scope on the certificate covers the product or service you are looking to source from them. If it doesn’t, it may well be worth asking why this is the case.
The scope of certification may also be interesting as it will show what other products or services the company is certified for. Seeing items closely related to what you are sourcing from the company can be reassuring. Similarly, seeing an array of wildly disparate products and services may lead to an interesting conversation with the supplier about their production processes and expertise.
Note that the scope of certification is also a feature of other ISO certificates, including ISO 14001.
Besides the certified scope, it is often worthwhile making the following checks of a Chinese company’s ISO 9001 certificate.
This is a simple but worthwhile confirmation to make. Ensure that the organisation name on the ISO 9001 certificate matches that on the business license for the production site.
That last point is important: you may be shown an ISO 9001 certificate for some other company that is part of the organisation, such as an office or other department. Make sure you’re looking at the business license for the actual factory or production location, and corroborate the name of the organisation on that with the ISO certificate you’re shown. Any discrepancies should be taken up with the company for clarification.
The ISO 9001 standard was updated in 2008. The old standard, from 2000, should not be showing up on current certificates. Confirm that you’re looking at certification for the 2008 standard, and query why this isn’t the case if the documentation shows anything else.
Another obvious but worthwhile check. Some companies may try to fob you off with an old certificate or claim that they still adhere to the standards that were certified several years ago.
If the company operates to ISO 9001 standards then there is no legitimate reason for them not to have a current certificate for it, so this issue should always be raised with a company if it occurs.
Just as an individual company can be certified to ISO 9001, the certifying authority itself should also be accredited by an international body. Confirm that a credible authority is shown on the certificate. It may even be worth confirming the accreditation of the certifying body with the higher authority.
You can try to verify a China ISO certificate yourself - this article explains how.
Confirming the basic details on the ISO 9001 documentation is a useful step to take. If everything checks out there, it is wise to go a step further and verify that the documentation is actually genuine.
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