Accreditatie seperates the wheat from the chaff

Nic Hendriks, Chair NVCi

As chairman of the trade association for certification and inspection bodies NVCi, Nic Hendriks is adamant: for certification bodies, it is of vital importance that the public has confidence in their independence, impartiality and competence. ‘As soon as an institution gains the reputation that certificates are just for sale there, those certificates are no longer worth anything.’


‘Certifying bodies feel their social responsibility very strongly, even though we are commercial service providers,’ Hendriks emphasises ‘Our customers choose accreditation because it distinguishes them in the market, but they often find an assessment for obtaining a certificate a tense process. Indeed, it feels like they have to take an exam. We think it is very important that we carry out our task properly and thus contribute to the quality, safety and sustainability of products and services in society.’

Justified confidence for end users

Citizens and companies want to be able to have confidence in the quality and safety of products and services. The system of self-regulation and supervision of certification bodies enriches that trust. Through rigorous testing, certifying bodies – together with the RvA – ensure that the value of all certificates awarded to companies under accreditation is undisputed. The certification bodies use generally applicable standards such as ISO 9001 (quality) or NEN 7510 (information security in healthcare) to test whether a product or service complies. The RvA in turn assesses the independence, impartiality and competence of these certification bodies on the basis of internationally accepted (ISO) accreditation standards for certification and inspection activities.

Cooperation with government

‘The government regularly uses certification as a means of guaranteeing quality and safety,’ Hendriks says. ‘We then check against the applicable standard as to whether laws and regulations have been complied with. We are not the enforcement authority; that is the task of the government. However, we complement each other. In order to ensure that this goes as smoothly as possible, we are trying to intensify cooperation with government inspection services.’

‘It is also important to clarify that certification is not a guarantee. Suppose the Labour Inspectorate investigates an accident in the workplace and finds that the company is certified for safe working. Should the conclusion then be that the certification body has failed?

It is important that it is clear what certification means; namely that the company intrinsically has its affairs in order and does everything possible to prevent accidents. It does not mean that occupational accidents are therefore one hundred percent eliminated. That is not a simple message and unfortunately there is not always room for the necessary nuance in the public discussion. In cooperation with the government inspectorates, we are also trying to clarify precisely what certification means and what role parties have.’

“It is important that it is clear what certification means; namely, that the company intrinsically has its affairs in order”

Keeping up with social developments

‘Of course, we keep up with social developments,’ says Hendriks. ‘This is how information security has become an important theme. Companies that want their customers to be able to trust that their data will be handled securely have their information security system independently tested. They use the certification to convey that they handle data reliably and responsibly.’

Clarity for the consumer

In the supermarket you see all kinds of stickers and slogans to convince the customer that products are healthy and sustainable, but what are all those claims actually worth? Anyone can claim to be sustainable. Hendriks: ‘There is quite a lot of talk of greenwashing. In other words, sustainability merely as a marketing strategy. ertification under accreditation separates the wheat from the chaff; it gives clarity to the consumer. The consumer must then know what the difference is between unfounded marketing language and certified products.’

‘It is important that we better present the system of certification and accreditation. This concerns the entire quality infrastructure, from standardisation to enforcement. The RvA takes initiatives in this regard, and the NVCi, as a trade association, is happy to join in.’

About Nic Hendriks

Nic Hendriks is chairman of the NVCi, the Dutch Association of Certification Bodies. The members of this trade association represent the vast majority of the Dutch certification market.

. In his daily life, he is managing director of two DEKRA operating companies. The NVCi is a member of the RvA’s User Council and is also represented in the RvA Impartiality Assemblee.

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