Importance of ISO Certification for Supply Chains, Sustainability and Society at Large

ISO certifications are, in short, standards for businesses practices internationally.

The importance for standard compliance is more crucial now than ever, with the current state of global geopolitics, influx of business growth, and climate change furtherance; coupled with a growing consumer concern for business transparency.

“Regulators and governments count on ISO standards to help develop better regulation, knowing they have a sound basis thanks to the involvement of globally-established experts” (ISO).

Several ISO certifications have taken the forefront in the discussion of compliance especially in buyer-supplier relationships.

Category, Quality and Sustainability Managers alike seek collaborations with suppliers that can display ISO compliance. The attractiveness of working with suppliers that are ISO compliant and certified is simple; compliance is attractive.

However, the ramifications of obtaining and maintaining ISO certification are further reaching than just an attractiveness for collaboration. ISO certified business practices build a standard on its own, much larger than just business standards.

ISO certifications create a basis, a level ground, for bettering society at large through business.

Source: YouTube

Which standards are standard?

The most commonly adopted standard certifications (that apply to supply chain practices) are ISO 9001 and ISO 14001. These standards contain sub-standards to build families of standards. There is a lot of internal evaluation and adjustment that goes into obtaining a certification.

· ISO 9001: Quality Management

ISO 9001 is designed to build certainty around the performance and end result of products and services, in order to meet customer needs and expectations.

· ISO 14001: Environmental Management

ISO 14001 is a means for companies and organizations globally to manage their environmental responsibilities to society at large.

ISO standards, in particular 9001 & 14001, tackle large scoping, socially pertinent, issues faced in modern business. These standards work towards lessening the discourse between business and consumer, building a proverbial bridge between consumer demands on product transparency and the end result (ISO).

ISO in the name of Symbolism stinks.

ISO adoption is symbolic for a company’s brand and external image. With that being said, the decision for adoption of ISO 14001 company-wide should be a genuine one, not based on a feeling of external pressure or trying to fit in with the current market landscape.

“The symbolic adoption of ISO 14001 refers to the use of standards by firms as a way to legitimize environmental practice by looking for the support from the institutional environment but without necessarily implying real environmental commitment (Aravind and Christmann, 2011; Iatridis and Kesidou, 2015)” (Journal of Environmental Management 2015).

Adoption of this insincere nature is continuously present in supply chains globally. This brings about the need for supplier governance. By governing suppliers with sporadic assessments, evaluations, and audits, one is able to weed out disingenuousness that some suppliers have reverted to, in the name of being symbolized as environmentally conscious.

Performance proven.

ISO 9001, Quality Management, gives extensive supply chains a basis for building a commonly accepted level of quality and performance from all of their suppliers throughout the supply chain.

Performance improves internally within the supply chain and externally as the consumer feels at ease and satisfied with the quality of production from ISO 9001 certified suppliers.

Following the guidelines for ISO certification creates company-wide transparency and paralleled practice, which is extremely beneficial when functioning within large global markets.

Collaboration.

“As many as 74 per cent of the organizations, which stated corporate image was an important and extremely important motive to implement ISO 9000, stated also substantial and very substantial improvements regarding corporate image.” (TQM Magazine)

That’s right. You got to play the part to get the part.

Improving image plays a large role in improving sales and marketing initiatives when adopting ISO standards, but it builds a transparent, unspoken trust that is ideal for collaborative work.

Companies that are able to, at a glance, display brand and strategic value, are more appealing to collaborate with (those who are ISO certified). Suppliers who take the initiative to become certified under ISO are typically more productive, produce better quality product and, are overall, more trustworthy in buyer-supplier relationships.

Next Steps…

Overall, creating a standard for requiring standards from suppliers isn’t a bad idea.

“Be the change you want to see in the world” as Mahatma Ghandi said.

What I mean is, get certified yourself. But bear in mind, the process of ISO certification isn’t necessarily easy and should be aided by senior management.

The changes can’t just come within the certification either. The ideology of what it means to bear an ISO certification must become a part of the company culture, not just a fancy plaque that hangs in the front window of your factories.

Avoid the pitfalls of working with individuals or corporations who are set in their ways. ISO adoption is as much about innovation and change as it is about standards and compliance.

Until next week…


This publication is brought to you by author Sam Jenks, but also on part by Kodiak Rating — A Supplier Relationship Management SaaS functioning out of Stockholm, Sweden. Kodiak Community intends to challenge traditional business practices with innovative thinking and creation.