ISO 17021 contains principles and requirements for the competence, consistency and impartiality of bodies providing audit and certification of all types of management systems. Conformity Assessment Bodies operating to ISO 17021 do not need to offer all types of management system certification.
ISO/IEC 17021 Conformity assessment — Requirements for bodies providing audit and certification of management systems, as it is officially called, was prepared by the ISO Committee on conformity assessment. It was developed to fulfill the need to have an International Standard that could facilitate the recognition of bodies that were performing conformity assessments and the acceptance of their certifications on a national and international basis; making it easier to recognize management system certification in the interests of international trade.
This International Standard provides a set of requirements for management systems auditing at a generic level, aimed at providing a reliable determination of conformity to the applicable requirements for certification, conducted by a competent audit team, with adequate resources and following a consistent process, with the results reported in a consistent manner.
ISO 17021 is intended for use by certification body that carry out audit and certification of management systems. It gives generic requirements for such
certification body performing audit and certification in the field of quality, environmental and other forms of management systems. These
certification body can be non-governmental or governmental (with or without regulatory authority) and they do not need to offer all types of management system certification.
The bodies that certify if a certification body is operating to ISO 17021 are called Accreditation Bodies, and the
certification body accredited by them are referred to as Accredited Certification Bodies. It’s not mandatory for a CB to comply with ISO 17021 in order to perform conformity assessments and issue a given certificate; however, the value of the certificate issued may not be recognized by all stakeholders.