The three key trends concerning certified management systems in 2020

Every autumn, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) provides an estimation of the number of valid certificates around the world for each country and for each sector, by counting the organizations that have rolled out a management system based on one of the 12 major international standards covered by the survey. By 31 December 2020, the topic of occupational health and safety (ISO 45001) had amassed the most stunning set of figures compared to the previous year, and it was the same story in France. The survey also identified two other emerging trends.

The surge in occupational health & safety

ISO 45001 clearly steals the limelight in the ISO Survey 2020, an annual survey of the number of companies that have implemented and certified their management system. ISO 45001 certification endorses management systems that satisfy the requirements of ISO 45001 on occupational health and safety (OH&S), as proudly showcased by some 190,429 companies around the world as of 31 December 2020. That figure is five times higher than just one year earlier. The same trend has also been reported in France with 1,385 valid certificates as of 31 December 2020 compared to 524 the previous year. This triple increase also applies to the number of sites covered by a certificate (one certificate may cover several sites for the same company), i.e. 5,034 late 2020 vs. 1,523 late 2019.

There is a simple explanation for this tremendous rise. Although ISO 45001 was only published in 2018, it has since permeated the economic fabric, and organizations are adopting the standard in their droves instead of the previous benchmark for occupational health and safety, namely OHSAS 18001. “To date, 85% of the French companies that we’d certified to OHSAS 18001, mainly in construction and industry, have switched over to ISO 45001. We had roughly the same percentage just a few weeks before the deadline for migrating to the 2015 versions of ISO 9001 for quality and ISO 14001 for the environment,” said Béatrice Poirier, AFAQ ISO 45001 Production Manager at AFNOR Certification, on 30 September 2021, which is the date when the last OHSAS 18001 certificates expired.

In 2020, the field of OH&S was also hit by the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic. Lockdowns, good hygiene practices and the psychological effects of an all-remote lifestyle transformed health into one of the hottest issues in the working world and forced companies to embrace a wider approach to the topic instead of merely considering such effects to be work-related accidents or musculoskeletal disorders, which are well known in the industrial world. It is worth noting that ISO 22301 certification, which encompasses business continuity management systems, failed to follow the same trajectory as ISO 45001 despite business disruptions reaching a peak in 2020, which showed that preparing organizations to address and deal with those health issues was a matter of survival. Finally, the growing interest in occupational safety spread to the realm of cybersecurity, with the number of certificates for ISO/IEC 27001 on information security management climbing by 11% in France and 22% worldwide.

A sectorized approach to quality

The 2020 edition of the ISO Survey highlighted a second key trend. Basically, when it comes to measuring an organization’s quality certification performance, you should not just consider the number of ISO 9001 certificates and the number of sites covered, but also take a closer look at the specific figures for other standards, including ISO 22000 (food safety), ISO 13485 (medical devices) and ISO/IEC 20000-1 (information technology services), as well as other non-ISO standards (consequently outside the survey), such as IATF 16949 for the automotive industry, EN 9100 for the aerospace industry and IRIS for the railway sector.

The number of valid ISO 13485 certificates in France as of 31 December 2020 rose by 19%. This high level of growth can also be seen on a global scale (more than 25,000 certificates covering over 35,000 sites), which can be explained by the favourable regulatory environment with the enactment of Regulation (EU) 2017/745 on medical devices on 26 May 2021. Driven by a newly revised version published only two years ago, ISO 22000 also achieved great success with 804 valid certificates compared to 300 in 2019. Still in France, the government’s Qualiopi standard applicable to continuous learning organizations (training providers must obtain Qualiopi certification before January 2022 to operate in this regulated market and qualify for public or shared funding) has culminated in thousands of certificates, while the number of ISO 9001 certificates has stagnated. When it comes to the global hit parade for ISO 9001 certificates, China leads the way, with France in eighth place.

One certificate for more sites

The third key trend revealed in the 2020 edition of the ISO Survey is that companies are streamlining their certificates. In other words, a single certificate is being used to cover a larger number of sites. France perfectly illustrates this example with the ISO 14001 standard, i.e. the number of valid certificates hardly improved on the 2019 figure (just 56 more), but certificates covered three times as many sites (one certificate for three sites in 2019 vs one certificate for nine sites in 2020). “The major groups that started out by certifying every single site are now combining their certificates to encompass several sites and streamlining their audits,” advises Vincent Gillet, Deputy Secretary-General of AFNOR. “For several years, efforts have been made to promote integrated management systems, which has resulted in a single certification process covering several subject areas (quality, safety and environment combined into QSE). It has also allowed organizations to integrate different QMS systems that might have existed within the same group.” »

However, this trend should be qualified by the knock-on effect of the Covid crisis. Not all the certification schemes maintained the same level of growth in 2020, and the simple reason is that companies looking for certification (whether an initial or renewal audit) abandoned their plans due to the various health restrictions, which made it harder for auditors to visit the sites, even though certification organizations went to great lengths to offer remote audit solutions.

Here are the results of the ISO Survey 2020 (©Getty Images/Nitat Termmee)