Is certification set to soar?

Is certification set to soar?

How has the pandemic influenced the certification landscape in South Africa, and what does the future hold for this sector? NICCI SCOTT-ANDERSON investigates.

The recovery and future of the certification sector in post-pandemic South Africa has been challenging, as organisations become penny-wise and evaluate what is essential for their businesses’ survival and success. 

It is interesting to note that the pandemic brought about a few potential trends, which may shape the trajectory of various standards. This creates opportunities for certification bodies to become more competitive, both in the number of standards they are certified to audit, and in the overall investment cost of certification.

As the economy recovers and businesses stabilise, there should be a gradual resurgence in demand for certification services. Deenash Singh is group CEO of specialist consultancy Sherqco, which provides safety, health, environmental, quality, and risk management services. He explains that, while the company has over 1,000 clients, many of its existing clients are reassessing for which standards they will seek certification, as opposed to the standards with which they will merely seek to be compliant. 

There may also be a shift in the specific standards sought by organisations, as the pandemic highlighted the importance of health and safety, as well as cybersecurity. Certifications related to ISO/IEC 9001 (Quality Management) and ISO/IEC 45001 (Occupational Health and Safety) may continue to be in demand as businesses prioritise resilience and compliance in these areas.

Additionally, the increasing focus on information security and cyber-risk management could drive more organisations towards ISO/IEC 27001 certification, especially considering the increase in online education.

The impact of remote work and digital transformation may also influence the certification landscape. The pandemic forced many organisations to adopt remote work practices and accelerate their digital transformation efforts. This shift may result in an increased need for certifications related to remote work policies, data protection, and IT security.

Alan Anderson, general manager of established certification body Zolabix Auditing (which provides simplified auditing, certification, and training for multiple fields and sectors), says that collaborations may be key in the future as well. He believes partnerships among certification bodies, industry associations, and regulatory bodies may become increasingly important in finding solutions to help streamline certification processes, align standards across sectors, and provide better support to organisations navigating the certification landscape. 

This is becoming more evident, particularly for micro and emerging businesses seeking compliance to fully participate within sectors that are highly regulated. Anderson points out that the upfront investment costs of certification can create barriers for smaller businesses. This has led to an increase in organisations seeking shortcuts and involving unscrupulous consultants, who make false promises or issue fraudulent certificates. 

He further encourages business owners to embrace the true value of certification, which is to genuinely enhance quality, ensure compliance, facilitate market access, build trust, drive continuous improvement, and engage employees within a recognised framework. 

Anderson says all organisations must be vigilant when appointing consultants and auditing bodies, and should verify that any certification body is accredited with either the South African National Accreditation System or a recognised international body, such as the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS).  

There is a perception that non-mandatory ISO/IEC certifications and other standards have become a luxury. However, organisations need to seek out certification bodies that embrace the true value of certification standards and are driven to achieve the overall objectives of the various standards.

In saying this, Rhenee Singh, from AUVA Africa – a UKAS-accredited certification body offering certification audits for local and international businesses of all sectors and sizes – has had to employ the services of international auditors based in the UK. This is due to the critical shortage of specialised auditors in specific sectors such as aviation. This in turn can have a direct impact on the cost of an audit.

So, while the pandemic has presented challenges for South Africa’s certification sector, it has also highlighted the importance of certain certifications. The sector’s future will depend on its ability to adapt to the changing landscape and meet the evolving needs of businesses in a post-pandemic environment.  

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SHEQ Management

SHEQ MANAGEMENT is the definitive source for reliable, accurate and pertinent information to guarantee environmental health and safety in the workplace.
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