The UK registrar BSI, which essentially dominates the ISO 9001 space in every capacity, is totally offering consulting services in violation of accreditation rules, no matter what anyone says. UKAS and ABAB, meanwhile, really don’t care, so long as the money keeps flowing into their pockets while they issue BSI accreditation certificates.
ISO 17021-1 is the standard by which BSI is accredited, and that standard prohibits the registrar from offering consulting services, and specifically the issuance of any specific advice on how to implement ISO 9001 for a given client. BSI has ignored this for years, and UKAS and ANAB have broken their necks looking the other way. Whenever a complaint has been issued, it’s been either ignored or whitewashed so that BSI never had to change any actual practices, and their accreditation was never threatened. Even when a BSI office was found literally selling documentation preparation services — specifically named as a violation in ISO 17021 — the accreditation bodies took no action, and the entire matter was swept under the rug.
BSI’s latest marketing blitz centers around yet another call to utilize their services for an A to Z implementation and certification package. Here’s a snippet from the document “BSI’s Best Practice Transition Journey” that they are sending around. Here it overtly and brazenly declares that BSI is selling a “transition course” that offers “implementing” ISO 9001, including “how to apply the key changes to ISO 9001:2015 .. plan for your organization.”
There’s no room for interpretation here. It’s abundantly clear that BSI is openly selling a course it claims will give specific implementation advice for those that take it. Then, the document goes on to offer a final step where BSI offers the certification audit, essentially ensuring — in fact, formalizing! — the process by which they audit their own consulting work.
In the past, UKAS and ANAB have put together phony “investigations” which always come to the same conclusion: after examining the course materials, there was nothing that pointed to BSI offering advice specific to the client, but instead “generic” advice. That argument doesn’t hold up for a number of reasons, and it means that ANAB and UKAS are, themselves, violating their own accreditation rules under ISO 17011.
First, the accreditation rules say that the prohibited advice cannot be “specific solutions”; that means that BSI can’t give even an example of what some companies do, even when expressing it “generically” because it the example is specific. That specificity raises the conflict of interest: if the client takes the advice, no matter if it is “generic” or not, it is likely that BSI will go easy on the client, whereas if they reject the advice, BSI may go harder on them. None of that may happen, but by offering a specific solution, it raises the conflict which shouldn’t come up in the first place.
Next, it doesn’t really matter if ANAB or UKAS find out that the course materials don’t actually provide client-specific advice anyway. Sure, that essentially means that BSI is lying in its marketing materials, which isn’t a violation of ISO 17021-1, but is just scummy business practices. But ISO 17021-1 doesn’t care about that. The problem is, however, that SO 17021-1 also regulates what accredited registrars can say about their marketing, and forces them to correct any such statements if they imply a violation. BSI has consistently marketed its certification services alongside consulting claims, and each time ANAB or UKAS has promised that BSI would change it’s language, and each time BSI does exactly nothing, and gets more brazen every year.
So while ANAB and UKAS may find that in reality the course materials don’t actually teach clients how to “implement” ISO 9001, they should still cite a nonconformity against BSI for saying so in their marketing, and then force BSI to make permanent changes to their marketing, so the issue doesn’t’ keep coming up, year after year.
Right now a Google search for “ISO 9001 implementation” shows BSI coming up on the first page, with multiple hits. Technically, they shouldn’t appear at all, since they are prohibited from offering this service. That doesn’t happen overnight, either; it took a while for BSI to earn that ranking, and shove most real consultants off the page. ANAB and UKAS were complicit in that.
We’ve argued this before, ad nauseum. BSI sells it’s impossibly-stupid named “Entropy” software package which includes modules and procedures for managing everything from corrective action to management review to internal audits, but the accreditation bodies have ruled it’s all just fine. They have to ignore the fact that a consultant like Oxebridge can provide the very same solutions, in software format, thus injecting conflicts of interest in the audit: if BSI sees Oxebridge software, and not Entropy, will that result in more or less audit findings? These questions wouldn’t arise at all if BSI didn’t sell Entropy at all, but that would cut into BSI’s sales, and ultimately ANAB and UKAS exist to bolster BSI, not the ISO 9001 end user.
Will we see a change? Unlikely. BSI dominates not only the consulting and registration spaces, but also the ISO committees that develop standards including ISO 9001. You can’t swing a cat in the halls of ISO without hitting a BSI rep. Until that dominance is broken, BSI will continue to offer consulting services alongside certification without any penalty.
We certainly can’t expect ANAB or UKAS to actually start doing their jobs and de-accredit BSI in response to violations.
About Christopher Paris
Christopher Paris is the founder and VP Operations of Oxebridge. He has over 30 years' experience implementing ISO 9001 and AS9100 systems, and is a vocal advocate for the development and use of standards from the point of view of actual users. He is the author of Surviving ISO 9001 and Surviving AS9100. He reviews wines for the irreverent wine blog, Winepisser.