The following commentary has been provided by Brian Rothery. It is being presented here by Simply Quality, so that our visitors can form their own opinions about the topics discussed.

Third Force Badly Needed

Brian Rothery, bestselling author of books on ISO 9000 and the new environmental management standard, looks at the good and bad of ISO 9000/ISO 14000 and argues for a balance.

This is the good news. You can now protect yourself, corporately and on an individual basis, against real or spurious charges of negligence, by using a management system certified to ISO 9000/ISO 14000. For the moment and until ISO 14000 registration is available, you can use BS 7750, the UK environmental management standard.

It is actually very good news for all those companies and managers who know that if they ever have to stand up in court, or defend themselves against activists, that there cannot be a better 'expert witness', as they are demonstrating independently corroborated best code of practice. It is particularly good in those cases where an individual manager could be faced with criminal charges - for example through the perceived neglect of worker health and safety legislation, or in Europe where there is now the almost repressive 1995 Machinery Directive.

On top of the legal assurances there is the contentment of knowing that your all-important sophisticated customer, buying your components, and perhaps allowing you to ship to point of use, will not de-list you for non-compliance with the requirements of ISO 9000. And the cream on the cake may be that your certificates of registration were not issued by your Aunt Sally but by a fully accredited certification agency.

That's the good news for some of us, but all this is very bad news for a whole lot of people. First the thousands of small to medium sized manufacturers in the less developed world who neither understand ISO 9000 nor how to go about implementing it, and who are even further away from implementing environmental and health and safety systems. There are less than ten companies registered to ISO 9000 in Manilla, one of the world's largest cities. Fortress Europe where every sophisticated buyer now demands ISO 9000 is being joined by the fortresses of America and the Pacific Rim in this demand which will exclude imports from companies all over the world.

A few 'tiger' countries, such as Malaysia, are pouring government money into helping SMEs to acquire ISO 9000, even paying consultants fees. There are now about 1500 companies registered in Malaysia.

ISO on its own is not a monster, but ISO plus the so-called 'independent' movement of certification is, and indeed certification on its own may be a monster out of control. About 12 certification agencies now administer most of the ISO registrations worldwide, and if one has experience of the bureaucracy of some of the agencies in one's own region, imagine dealing with one over a distance of thousands of miles.

Some state of the art US manufacturers in Europe, already registered to ISO 9000, and operating environmentally friendly plants, recently invited one of the few certification agencies handling the new environmental management standard, which in Europe generally is BSI's BS 7750, although there is an AFNOR standard in France and an IS 310 in Ireland. They received up to 90 non-conformances on the initial audit. Worse, however, they received no help or advise with this list of destructive commentary, which did the pioneering teams no good with their senior managements.

The inspectors involved from the certification agency had little or no experience with this new standard, and were nit-picking rather than looking for significant environmental effects. They were employing the worst excesses of the 'ISO 9000 checklist approach'. And these were world class plants trying to push the boundaries beyond quality into environmental probity. Instead of praise they got a level of unfriendly bureaucracy closer to prosecution. If this has happened to top US owned manufacturing facilities in Europe, what hope is there for companies in the Third World?

ISO stands in isolated splendour, saying, 'We do not certify. There is no such thing as ISO 9000 certification.' At the same time ISO and IEC are involved through QSAR in bringing in a worldwide peer accreditation scheme for certifiers. Whether ISO is truly independent of certification or not, the certifiers, or registrars, are all powerful and growing even more so.

Between these poles of the Vatican of ISO (although headquartered in Geneva) and the certifiers who answer only to each other, we need a third force representing users, an 'ISO-USO' perhaps user group, but one prepared to support a benchmark or generic by industry certification approach, which could be administrated through the user group or through industry associations worldwide.

Brian Rothery is a full time writer of books about standards and related subjects. He is the author of ISO 9000, the bestselling book that has gone into ten translations and BS 7750 and the EMAS Regulation, which was chosen by BSI as a 'BSI bestseller' and has become a UK bestseller.

His new book ISO 14000 and ISO 9000 is now available from publishers Ashgate in the US and from Gower in the UK. The approach taken is based on some of the world's first manufacturing companies to achieve accredited certification to BS 7750, the UK environmental management standard, but the author has used the drafts of the ISO 14000 series to project an ISO 14000/ISO 9000 system. Or what he believes should be such a system.

Ashgate and Gower are at the same time publishing Brian Rothery's KEYPAC 2000, six manuals in a boxed set of generic documentation for a typical manufacturing company covering the quality, environmental and health and safety issues. Diskettes are also available separately. This appears to be the world's first package of generic documentation for these standards. More KEYPACs are following for chemicals and other industrial sectors.

Ashgate in Vermont can be reached at Fax (802) 276-3837 and at

Gower in Aldershot UK can be reached at Fax + 44 1252 344405.

Brian Rothery can be contacted in Dublin, Ireland at

This commentary has been presented here by Simply Quality, so that our visitors can form their own opinions about the topics discussed.