Many companies declare that they are "accredited". However, this word has a specific meaning within the certificatiion world; it is reserved for the process of recognising certification bodies and thier specific activities. Companies can only be "certified" or "registered".


ISO 17021:2010 is the accreditation standard applied to certification bodies and this requires that, as well as many other requirements, that certification bodies have a quality system. Accreditation can only be awarded by an accreditation body; in Europe, each country has only one accreditation body (in Ireland, it is INAB).


Certification Bodies (or more formally, conformity assessment bodies or CABs) are accredited to work in a particular standard (e.g. ISO 9001:2008) and for specific scopes (e.g. Food, Electrical Manufacturing, Services etc.)


As businesses trade internationally, it is very important that all accreditations are equivalent. To achieve this, accreditation bodies sign MLA (Multi-Lateral Agreements) and are members of the IAF. Members of the IAF engage in peer assessments to ensure that they maintain the same standards and that there is true equivalence between the members' accreditation services.


Not all certification services can be accredited and not all certifications are accredited. Many factors influence whether certification is accredited. Some of these are:

 Accredited certification not available (e.g. new standards, minority standards, standard not suitable for accreditation etc.)

  •  Certification body does not have sufficient clients (accreditation is an additional overhead for a certification body and costs have to be passed to the clients. At the early stages,    there may not be sufficient clients to make it cost effective)
  • The market may not expect or require accreditation (in some markets, accreditation is not expected or required)
  • The body being certified may not wish to have accredited certification (it is voluntary)