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Blog: Accreditation is a global issue

Many people have almost never heard of competence assessment and the term ‘accreditation’ in particular. What are these about?

Accreditation involves test and calibration laboratories, inspection bodies, certifying organisations and verifiers. Accreditation is used to indicate the validity of that which is being accredited. The quality of services provided by an accredited operator can be trusted. Accreditation is based on international criteria. It is a harmonised procedure that is recognised globally through multilateral recognition agreements. It is also a global issue.

FINAS carries out accreditation assessments in Finland. Accreditation bodies are already active in more than 100 countries. Their number is still growing in countries such as Africa.

The number of organisations providing accreditation in Europe is limited to one per EU Member State. Although there is no similar constraint in the rest of the world, each state usually only has one accreditation organisation. There are also some exceptions such as the United States, where there are several accreditation providers.

Scope of accreditation

An accreditation decision is always associated with a certain scope of accreditation. This indicates which methods are subject to accreditation. Accreditation does not necessarily cover all the testing methods used by an institution such as a testing laboratory.

Even if an operator has been accredited, this may refer only to accreditation in the context of the reporting of results for methods within the scope of accreditation.

It is worth referring to accreditation

When reporting results, reference to accreditation is not obligatory, as it is in the case of accredited certification. In the future, there may be an international agreement to make referencing mandatory in other sub-areas, such as testing and inspection.

Referencing can consist of using an item's accreditation mark or a verbal reference. Reference to accreditation is recommended and important in sectors other than certification. Only by reference to accreditation can various parties be sure that the method in question has been accredited.

Greater recognition worldwide

Accreditation assessments have been conducted for many years worldwide and FINAS has been active for almost 30 years. A term corresponding to ‘accreditation’ can be recognised in the name of almost all accreditation organisations. This is enhancing recognition of the term.

The global marketing of accreditation is very important to ensuring greater use of accreditation as proof of due qualification. The European co operation for accreditation website includes material aimed at increasing the recognition of accreditation. The websites of the International Accreditation Forum (IAF) and ILAC also have a large amount of similar material.

Powered by examples

Examples of the use of accreditation around the world can be found on the Public Sector Assurance website. The site is a collaborative project involving organisations such as the IAF, ILAC and the standardisation organisations ISO and IEC. The site currently has over 300 examples from various sectors including health care, construction, environmental protection, the energy industry and food safety.

The aim of the site is to increase knowledge of targets of accreditation among public authorities and legislators, for example. The site has been well received around the world and more examples are being sought for posting there. No examples have been provided by Finland, but I am sure that this situation will change. There are many industries in Finland that require accreditation. Examples include statutory inspection activities. FINAS is disseminating information about the existence of the site and will ask stakeholders to provide examples.


Risto Suominen

Director, FINAS