Certainty Blog

What is an ISO Audit — and Why Does Your Business Need One?

Worker performing internal ISO audit

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is an independent, non-governmental international organization and certification body with more than 167 members. The goal of the ISO is to create voluntary international standards that help companies evaluate and improve current processes. ISO has been creating and evolving standards for more than 70 years, helping companies stay up-to-date with changing market trends.

While these standards are voluntary, they’ve often considered industry best practices — as a result, it’s often worth conducting an ISO audit to see how your business stacks up.

What is an ISO Audit?

An ISO audit is an evaluation of your company’s current practices against ISO standards. Some standards that organizations have to meet include quality management, workplace safety, environmental management, information security, and even car seat safety.

ISO audits are divided into four broad categories: Internal, external, certification audits (and recertification), and surveillance audits. Internal audits are those conducted by a designated internal auditor within your organization. In some cases, this may be sufficient for certification. Other standards require more in-depth, third-party audits that include customers and suppliers, and once your business is ISO certified you must schedule a surveillance audit on-site with ISO auditors at least once per year to ensure your certification remains valid. Companies must recertify every three years to ensure that business processes continue to meet certification requirements.

Common ISO Audit Types

Three common ISO audit types conducted by production and manufacturing companies include:

ISO 9001

The ISO 9000 family of standards focuses on quality management, quality systems, and quality objectives. This standard uses seven quality management principles (QMPs) to evaluate overall performance and quality policy. These include customer focus, leadership, engagement of people, process approach, improvement, evidence-based decision-making, and relationship management. 

ISO 9001 audits, therefore, look to evaluate how companies perform and identify non-conformance in areas such as the implementation and management of quality management systems (QMS).

ISO 14001

The ISO 14000 standards speak to environmental management. This standard family has more than 300,000 certifications worldwide, making it one of the largest frameworks offered by the ISO. Key standards include ISO 14001:2015, which focuses on overall environmental performance, ISO 14004:2016, which speaks to general implementation guidelines, and ISO 14005:2019, which offers guidelines for a phased implementation of environmental best practices. 

Conducting an ISO 14001 audit can help companies identify environmental deficits in current operations and create plans to remedy these issues, in turn helping them gain both a competitive advantage and increase trust among stakeholders and customers. and identify corrective actions and help drive continual improvement

ISO 45001

The ISO 45000 standards are all about occupational health and safety and their impact on risk management. ISO 45001:2018 focuses on occupational health and safety management systems, while ISO/PAS 45005:2020 speaks to navigating recent challenges such as the global pandemic. 

While ISO 45001 certification is not a requirement, the guideline is widely recognized as the minimum standard of practice to protect employees worldwide — if an accident does occur on your site or production line, one of the first questions asked will be if you were ISO 45001 compliant. 

Why the ISO Audit is Important

While ISO audits and certifications are voluntary, many businesses use them as the high water mark for processes and personnel compliance. In some cases, enterprises may require manufacturing partners to obtain ISO certification for quality control, environmental management, or workplace safety — if companies can’t consistently align with audit expectations, they may lose valuable partnerships.

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