ISO has released a formal survey asking member nations to provide additional feedback on why they rejected revising ISO 9001:2015, setting the stage for an “early revision” despite the votes.

Following its normal procedures, ISO first circulated a formal ballot in late 2020 asking member nations whether they wished to begin work on revising ISO 9001. Such a step is routine, as all ISO standards are subject to a 5-year review. The results of the 2020 vote found the world rejected the plan, and voted by a slim majority to retain the current ISO 9001:2015 version.

ISO 9001 represents the flagship product for the International Organization for Standardization, however, and the organization generates massive revenue whenever it is updated. Through its partnership with the International Accreditation Forum (IAF), ISO establishes a deadline forcing all companies to update their systems to the new version or lose certification; updating requires every ISO 9001 user company to buy copies of the new standard.

At the same time, the bulk of the ISO 9001 text is no longer written by subject matter experts or elected members of the various ISO member nations, but instead by an administrative office within ISO called the Technical Management Board (TMB). The output of the TMB is a manuscript known as “Annex SL” which is then forcibly inserted as text into every ISO management system standard, including ISO 9001. That activity is managed by a single representative of The Netherlands, Dick Hortensius, who is not answerable to any national voting, and works largely without oversight.

Annex SL is currently undergoing a revision, which would imply that any changes to Annex SL must push a revision of ISO 9001, since Annex SL comprises nearly 40% of the ISO 9001 text. Plans to update ISO 9001 to insert the updated Annex SL text were hindered by the international vote, as a result.

For this reason, as well as ISO’s projected financial losses due to delays in issuing a revised standard, ISO officials were “furious” with the vote, and began working on ways to get around it, according to sources who spoke with Oxebridge.

Finding an obscure clause in a current ISO procedure that allows the override of member nations’ votes, ISO moved to circulate a second vote to revise ISO 9001, ignoring the first vote. This second vote also failed, however, creating a public relations problem for ISO.

In response to that vote, ISO telegraphed that it may begin an “early revision” of ISO 9001 regardless, again ignoring the will of member nations.

Now ISO has released a new SurveyMonkey survey, located here, which makes yet another attempt to justify an early revision. In a formal release dated 31 October 2021 and submitted by BSI representative Charles Corrie, ISO is soliciting feedback on why member nations voted to retain ISO 9001 and reject an update:

As part of its research, SC2/TG5 would like to gain a better understanding of the reasons as to why those members decided to vote for confirmation.

The memo claims it is “not a vote to start a revision” but does set the stage for ISO to justify an early revision, thus nullifying the voting to date.

The Corrie memo then goes on to lay out the roadmap for any such early revision, indicating that a new version could appear in 2025 at the latest.

Any decision to start an early revision would need to be formally confirmed by TC176/SC2. This would be either by a ballot or formal review and would only follow a recommendation of the ISO/TC 176/SC2/SPOTG after it had reviewed the report of SC2/TG5 due to be presented in March 2022.

Even if the SPOTG were to support starting a revision after reviewing the report from SC2/TG5, the work would not be likely to start before the 3rd quarter of 2022. Also allowing for a development period of 3 years, this would only result in a new edition of ISO 9001 being achieved towards the end of 2025. A further transition period of 3 years after publication, would see organizations only needing to meet the revised requirements by 2028.

The timeline for a 2025 revision date is nearly exactly what would have been achieved had member nations voted to approve a revision, meaning the “early revision” process entirely circumvents international will. The only delay proposed is that rather than begin revising the standard in 2022, rather than 2021… a one-year delay.

ISO sells the ISO 9001 manuscript at key draft stages, so would begin generating income from an early revision around 2023. If an early revision were not to be pursued, the earliest a revised standard could have been released would have been 2028, with an actual date of 2030 more likely.

The Corrie Memo is officially titled ISO/TC  176/SC 2/N 1576 and can be downloaded here.

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