[This series of articles discusses the ISO 17000 family of standards, which are often obscure and complex.]

Standards published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) are grouped into “families” common under a specific theme, which are then numbered by a controlling “thousand” indicator. The ISO 9000 series is related to the theme of quality management, while the ISO 14000 series is for environmental management, and so on. The ISO 17000 series — a far less famous family, but remarkably important — covers a wide spread of topics, but includes the dual themes of certification and accreditation.

A few quick clarifications are in order. “Certification” is an attestation granted to a person, organization, or thing, while “accreditation” is an attestation granted to a certifier. Both are intended to ensure trust in the resulting attestation, but there’s a hierarchy in play. A certification body (CB) certifies the thing, and the accreditation body (AB) accredits the CB. We’ll discuss this more as we go on.

As I said, the ISO 17000 series is not a single-themed “family” at all. In fact, only a handful of the standards in the 17k series are related to “conformity assessment” (certification and accreditation). The bulk of the standards is, instead, of an assortment of unrelated topics, such as “freight containers” and “meteorology” and “microbiology of the food chain.” The 17000 series is comprised of over 270 different standards, and has become a dumping ground for standards that simply don’t fit in some other family. you could argue that most have could be related to “certification” as many provide requirements for certain products or services, but this has been stretched to the breaking point. That was ISO’s intent for the 17000 family, however.

For this series of articles, I will focus only on the 17k standards related to conformity assessment. These are:

As each article in the series is completed, I will update the list above with active links.

This infographic may help in deciding which ISO 17xxx standard might apply to your given circumstances (click to enlarge):

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.


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