What is the role of IAC?

IAC is a global network of accreditation bodies and other organisations involved in conformity assessment activities. Its key roles include:

  • to maintain and expand the Multilateral Recognition Arrangement (MLA), between accreditation body members, with the aim of reducing risk to business and its customers and ensuring that an accredited certificate may be relied upon anywhere in the world;
  • to develop and harmonize accreditation practices across the world; and
  • to promote accreditation as an effective mechanism for providing confidence in goods and services, which is essential to global trade facilitation.


Who are the members of IAC?

There are three different categories of Membership to the IAC:

Accreditation Body Members

IAC Signatories
Accreditation Body Members of IAC achieve IAC MLA Signatory status after a full evaluation of their operations by a peer evaluation team, which is tasked to ensure that the applicant member complies fully with both the international standards and IAC documents. Once an Accreditation Body is a signatory of the IAC MLA, it is required to recognise and promote certificates issued by Certification Bodies accredited by all other signatories with the scope of the IAC MLA.

IAC Members that are not yet signatories
Membership of IAC is open to Accreditation Bodies that conduct and administer programmes by which they accredit bodies for certification of quality systems, products, services, personnel, and environmental management systems, as well as other programmes of conformity assessment. Accreditation Body Members must declare their intention to join the IAC Multilateral Recognition Agreement (MLA) recognising the equivalence of other Members’ accreditations to their own.

Association Members

Association Members are organisations or associations that represent a similar group of entities internationally or within an economy or region. These entities are associated with the programmes of IAC Accreditation Body Members and fully support IAC objectives.

Regional Accreditation Group Members

Regional Accreditation Group Members consist of associations of Accreditation Bodies, and possibly other bodies, that cooperate within an identified geographic region to establish and maintain a multilateral recognition agreement based on a peer evaluation system, and represent the interests of accredited entities, industry, users and similar organisations that engage in, are subject to, make use of, accept or rely on conformity assessment results from bodies accredited by Accreditation Body Members of IAC, and which support the purpose of IAC. Regional Accreditation Groups are invited to be represented in committees established to enhance cooperation between IAC and the Regional Accreditation Groups.

Recognized Regional Accreditation Group
A Recognized Regional Accreditation Group is a Regional Accreditation Group that has been peer evaluated to confirm that its membership and MLA peer evaluation criteria and processes meet or exceed IAC requirements.

IAC also has non-Member Observers. In cases where the Board believes it is in the best interests of IAC Members to develop closer relationships with a particular entity, the Board may grant Observer status to such an entity for a period not exceeding three years. Observers may be invited to attend IAC meetings and/or participate in technical work in a manner determined by the Board, but are not be eligible to cast a vote on any matter put to the Members for resolution.


 How is the IAC structured?

IAC is an international association of organisations that work together to achieve common trade facilitation objectives. The terms of reference, tasks and duties of the Members, the Board of Directors, and the Secretary are defined by the Bylaws and the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

The highest level of authority in IAC is the Members in a General Meeting. General Meetings make decisions and set policy on behalf of members. The Board is responsible for legal actions to be carried out on behalf of the members, for developing broad policy directions and for ensuring that the day-to-day work of IAC is carried out in accordance with the approved policies.

The Executive Committee is responsible to the Board of Directors for the day-to-day work of IAC based on decisions made by Members and directions from the Board of Directors.

The relationships between the various parts of the organisation of IAC can be found in IAC PL 5 which can be downloaded from the Policy Documents section of the site.


What type of documents does IAC publish?

IAC publishes several documents to communicate policy decisions and rules, share best practices, and support accreditation body and conformity assessment body operations. These documents, which are under constant review, are core to the effective operation of IAC, and support IAC’s objective of certified once accepted everywhere.

All IAC documents are clearly categorised depending on the nature or purpose of the document. Some contain mandatory requirements, however others are available for advisory or informative purposes.

The categories are as follows:

Policy Documents (PL Series): Policy documents set out the governance requirements that IAC members are expected to follow, as well as the IAC position on current issues.

Multilateral Recognition Arrangement (MLA) Documents – (ML Series): IAC Guidance documents are based on the experience of accreditation bodies in applying the relevant ISO/IEC Guides in practice, and represent agreement among IAC members on best practices in the application of those Guides.  Accreditation bodies that are members of the MLA are required to adopt the IAC Guidance as part of their general rules of operation.

IAC Guidance Documents (GD Series): IAC publishes guidance for the use of accreditation bodies when accrediting certification bodies to assure that they also operate their programmes in a consistent and equivalent manner.

IAC Informative Documents (ID Series): Informative Documents reflect the consensus of IAC members on a given subject and are intended to support the consistent application of requirements.  As these documents are for information purposes only, accreditation body members, and the conformity assessment bodies they accredit, are not under any obligation to use or comply with these documents.

IAC Mandatory Documents (MD Series): IAC publishes Mandatory Documents which are required to be used by accreditation bodies when accrediting certification bodies to assure that they operate their programs in a consistent and equivalent manner. Mandatory documents are not intended to establish, interpret, subtract from or add to the requirements of any ISO/IEC Guide or Standard, but simply to assure consistent application of those Guides or Standards.

Procedures Documents (PR Series): IAC Procedures documents set out the procedures to be followed in implementing the IAC program, including the procedures and processes which must be followed in order to satisfy the IAC Objectives, Certificate of Incorporation and Bylaws.

IAC-ILAC Joint Publications (A Series): This category includes documents that are published jointly with ILAC, and are used in the the evaluation of regions, and unaffiliated bodies.

Documents for General Information:  IAC publishes a number of documents which are made available to assist businesses, regulators and other parties gain a better understanding of IAC and its operations.

Promotional Documents:  IAC publishes a range of promotional document for use by IAC members, their accredited certification bodies and other stakeholders interested in accreditation.


What is conformity assessment?

Conformity assessment is the demonstration that what is being supplied actually meets the requirements specified or claimed. Conformity assessment can be applied to a product or a service, a process, a system, an organisation or persons and includes activities such as testing, inspection, and certification.

Demonstrating compliance with standards and other criteria assumes greater importance to consumer confidence as products and services become increasingly technically complex. Conformity assessment is therefore an indispensable part of an economy’s business and standards and conformance infrastructure.


What is accreditation?

Accreditation is the independent evaluation of certification bodies against recognised standards to ensure their impartiality and competence to carry out specific activities, such as tests, calibrations, inspections and certifications.

The IAC operates in the fields of management systems, products, services, personnel and other similar programmes of conformity assessment, while laboratory and inspection accreditation is managed at the global level by the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC).

Through the application of national and international standards, government, procurers and consumers can therefore have confidence in the calibration and test results, inspection reports and certifications provided.

Accreditation bodies are established in many countries with the primary purpose of ensuring that certification bodies are subject to oversight by an authoritative body.


What is an accreditation body? 

An accreditation body is an authoritative body that performs accreditation. In some instances, its authority is derived from government.

Its primary function is to assess, against internationally agreed standards, organisations that provide certification, testing, inspection and calibration services (collectively known as conformity assessment bodies). Accreditation demonstrates the competence, impartiality and performance capability of these organisations.

Accreditation bodies normally operate as non-profit distributing organisations.

The IAC operates in the fields of management systems, products, services, personnel and other similar programmes of conformity assessment, while laboratory and inspection accreditation is managed at the global level by the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC).


What is an accredited body?

An organisation that provides certification, testing, calibration, inspection and other conformity assessment services can seek accreditation. An accredited body has demonstrated that it fully meet the requirements of relevant national and international standards.

The criteria for determining a certification body’s competence are based on the relevant national or international standard (such as ISO/IEC 17024, ISO/IEC Guide 65ISO/IEC 17021) and include: the qualifications required knowledge and skills, training and experience of staff; appropriate equipment that is properly calibrated and maintained; adequate quality assurance procedures; and appropriate sampling practices.

Accredited bodies can be private or government owned, and can range in size from sole traders to large multi-disciplinary, multi-site organisations.

The IAC operates in the fields of management systems, products, services, personnel and other similar programmes of conformity assessment, while laboratory and inspection accreditation is managed at the global level by the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC).


What is certification?

Certification is a “third-party attestation related to products, processes, systems or persons,” as defined by ISO/IEC 17000 Conformity Assessment—Vocabulary and General Principles.

Certification is most often associated with ISO 9001 and the environmental management systems standard ISO 14001. However, certification programs exist for a range of management systems standards, including the ISO/IEC 2700 program for information security management and the ISO 22000 program for food safety management.

Product certification is the process of verifying that a product, including services and processes, meet requirements specified in contracts, regulations, or specifications.

In most countries, accreditation is voluntary, however, many certification bodies choose to seek accreditation in order to demonstrate third-party confirmation of their competence.


What are the expected outcomes for accredited certification to ISO 9001 and ISO 14001?

ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 certification are frequently used in both private and public sectors to
increase confidence in the products and services provided by organizations, between partners in business-to-business relations, in the selection of suppliers in supply chains and in the right to tender for procurement contracts.

IAC and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) have jointly produced a concise statement of outcomes that are to be expected as a result of accredited certification to ISO 9001. The intent is to promote a common focus throughout the entire conformity assessment chain in order to achieve these expected outcomes and thereby enhance the value and relevance of accredited certification.

The following documents can be downloaded from Documents for General Information:

Expected Outcomes for Accredited Certification to ISO 9001

Expected Outcomes for Accredited Certification to ISO 14001