ISO has finally obtained approval to revise ISO 9001 after five previous ballots failed, handing the standards body the vote result sought by its senior leadership.  Since 2020, ISO member nations and users have consistently voted to “confirm” ISO 9001:2015 without revision, setting a conflict between ISO’s members and its leadership.

24 hours after a leak by the British quality organization CQI and its training body IRCA on Twitter, which revealed the ballot results, ISO was forced to circulate the final, formal results. The final tally found 36 countries voting to revise ISO 9001, with 25 voting against the move, and 23 either not voting or abstaining.

Whereas ISO refused to accept the five prior ballot results, it is expected to accept the sixth without any debate or question. It has long been assumed that ISO would keep voting until it got the result sought by ISO Secretary-General Sergio Mujica and a handful of private consultants on TC 176, including Nigel Croft, Lorri Hunt, and Jose Domingez.

The move provides concrete evidence to the world that ISO does not abide by its own procedures nor does it honor the claim that its standards are developed “by consensus.” This also puts ISO at odds with the World Trade Organization, which has published regulations on how ISO is supposed to develop standards, regulations of which ISO is now in violation. The WTO, however, has no means of enforcing the regulations on ISO, so the rules are largely symbolic.

Analysis of Ballot Results

The countries voting to revise ISO 9001 in this latest ballot were:

  • Argentina (IRAM)
  • Belgium (NBN)
  • China (SAC)
  • Colombia (ICONTEC)
  • Congo, The Democratic Republic of the (OCC)
  • Costa Rica (INTECO)
  • Cyprus (CYS)
  • Denmark (DS)
  • Finland (SFS)
  • India (BIS)
  • Iran, Islamic Republic of (INSO)
  • Italy (UNI)
  • Korea, Republic of (KATS)
  • Malaysia (DSM)
  • Malta (MCCAA)
  • Mauritius (MSB)
  • Mexico (DGN)
  • Morocco (IMANOR)
  • Netherlands (NEN)
  • Nigeria (SON)
  • Norway (SN)
  • Pakistan (PSQCA)
  • Peru (INACAL)
  • Philippines (BPS)
  • Poland (PKN)
  • Portugal (IPQ)
  • Russian Federation (GOST R)
  • Saudi Arabia (SASO)
  • Serbia (ISS)
  • Spain (UNE)
  • Sweden (SIS)
  • Ukraine (SE UkrNDNC)
  • United Kingdom (BSI)
  • United States (ANSI)
  • Uruguay (UNIT)
  • Viet Nam (STAMEQ)

The nations voting against the change were as follows:

  • Australia (SA)
  • Austria (ASI)
  • Bolivia, Plurinational State of (IBNORCA)
  • Brazil (ABNT)
  • Bulgaria (BDS)
  • Canada (SCC)
  • Cuba (NC)
  • Czech Republic (UNMZ)
  • Dominican Republic (INDOCAL)
  • France (AFNOR)
  • Germany (DIN)
  • Indonesia (BSN)
  • Ireland (NSAI)
  • Israel (SII)
  • Japan (JISC)
  • Mongolia (MASM)
  • New Zealand (NZSO)
  • Romania (ASRO)
  • Singapore (SSC)
  • Slovenia (SIST)
  • Sri Lanka (SLSI)
  • Thailand (TISI)
  • Tunisia (INNORPI)
  • United Arab Emirates (MoIAT-STR)
  • Zimbabwe (SAZ)

The original vote in 2020 saw a majority of ISO member nations voting against the change. Oxebridge analyzed the results of both ballots and found that the new result, in 2023, came from a variety of changes in the vote results.

ISO and key private consultants, including Croft and Dominguez, had spent considerable effort trying to lobby countries who voted against the revision in 2020 to change their votes in 2023. However, only eight countries actually changed their vote from “confirm” to “revise.” These were Cyprus (CYS), Korea (KATS), Malaysia (DSM), Malta (MCCAA), Pakistan (PSQCA), Peru (INACAL), Poland (PKN), Spain (UNE), Ukraine (SE UkrNDNC), Uruguay (UNIT), and Viet Nam (STAMEQ).

Another six countries changed their minds from voting to revise the standard in 2020 to confirm it in 2023.

This suggests that the aggressive tactics by ISO to get countries to switch their votes were not particularly successful. Instead, the flipped result appears to be the result of countries simply being exhausted with ISO’s incessant, three-campaign to upend world consensus. Oxebridge found that 9 countries that voted to confirm the standard in 2020 chose to abstain in 2023; another 6 countries chose not to vote at all in 2023. Had those countries participated, the decision to maintain ISO 9001 as-is would have been upheld again.

In addition, five countries that did not vote in 2020 joined the voting in 2023, of which four of those voted to revise the standard. Those included the Philippines and Saudi Arabia.

Filtering out the votes of “observer” nations, which are recorded but which are not supposed to be counted, has no effect on the outcome.

Prior Vote Efforts

The five prior votes, all of which resulted in ISO members and users voting to confirm ISO 9001 as-is, were as follows:

  1. Vote #1: Dec 2020: official 5-year “Systematic Review” (SR) ballot. The majority voted against revision.
  2. Vote #2: May 2021: Public User Survey (via SurveyMonkey). The majority voted against revision.
  3. Vote #3: May 2021: ISO Committee Internal Ballot (IB) asked P-member nations to revise their original SR vote from Dec 2020. The majority voted against revision.
  4. Vote #4: October 2021: TC 176 SPOTG Committee polls members, again via SurveyMonkey, asking members to change their vote. No results were published. The survey did not allow members to reject the idea of revising the standard outright.
  5. Vote #5: March 2022: SPOTG holds Task Group 5 meeting on revising the standard, the output of that meeting results in SPOTG admitting, “No single item, or source of evidence, on its own was found to be strong enough for TG 5 to recommend a revision of ISO 9001.”

In May 2023, TC 1276 held a secret “ad hoc” meeting to gain informal feedback on TC 176 members’ willingness to override all prior votes and pursue early revision of ISO 9001. The meeting ended without any informal polling, as critics of the plan to revise ISO 9001 largely dominate the discussions. Nevertheless, Croft’s “SPOTG” committee pushed forward regardless, and in June 2023 announced a sixth vote would be held “in the coming weeks.”  The results published today reflect the results of that ballot, and run counter to the feedback of members from that May meeting.

Politics and Personal Ambition Drive the Changes

ISO Secretary-General Sergio Mujica had applied pressure on TC 176 to ignore any votes against revising the standard so that it could be updated to include language on “climate change.” The move is said to be an attempt by Mujica to burnish his credentials before the United Nations as he considers running for UN Secretary-General in 2026. Mujica has pledged to support various UN “Sustainability Development Goals” by embedding them in ISO standards, regardless of whether the goals are on-topic with the subject of the standards.

A formal study by ISO itself indicated that “climate change” was not appropriate for ISO 9001, which is a quality management standard, but instead for ISO 14001, the environmental management standard. Mujica, however, demanded that the subject be put into “all” ISO standards, in a move that users have called overtly political.

Mujica has been supported by UK expat Croft, an ISO consultant who has a history of altering the text of ISO 9001 in order to appease the ISO Executive. For the 2015 version, Croft was brought in to write front matter and appendices about “risk-based thinking.” Upon publication, Croft immediately formed the “Croft Global Alliance” of various ISO consultants from TC 176, to act as a clearinghouse for the sale of their consulting on risk-based thinking. The Alliance fell apart soon after, for unknown reasons.

Croft later admitted to Oxebridge that risk-based thinking was not an established, proven management theory, and that use of ISO 9001 would act as the proving grounds for whether it works. Oxebridge has argued that “risk-based thinking” does not even exist, and therefore has no place in an international standard.

Croft, Hunt, Dominguez, and others, stand to make significant sales of new books, seminars, and speaking engagements based on the revision that they forced through.

ISO has refused to enforce existing rules which prohibit the majority influence of any one stakeholder group, such as private consultants, on its Technical Committees.

ISO has justified the need to revise ISO 9001 claiming that “changes” have occurred since 2015 in the quality management profession that necessitates an update. To date, the draft language of the changes only shows the addition of “climate change,” some new Annex SL text that is unrelated to quality, and a discussion on adding “gender equality.” None of the proposed changes so far have anything to do with the quality management field.

It is expected that the new version will be published in 2025, but that date may slip.

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Why we report on these topics

Since 2000, Oxebridge has worked to improve ISO and related certification schemes by identifying problems and then proposing solutions. We report on issues affecting standards users because so few other news outlets do. Our belief is that in order to fix the problems in these schemes, we must first understand the nature and breadth of those problems. Our reporting aims to do just that. Elsewhere on the Oxebridge site you will find White Papers and other articles proposing ideas to correct these problems.