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As the standard is voluntary; any organization can use select elements of the standard to improve its environmental management activities. Isolated improvements do not mean that you have a management system in place, or have met global expectations captured in the standard, so it is not appropriate to state that you conform to the standard. However, if you have used ISO 14001 to systematically improve your business and you are confident that you meet global expectations through expressed in the standard, you have four options to share your statement of accountability. Here are the terms that are affiliated with 'conformity assessment'. Where appropriate, the specific terms defined by ISO/CASCO, the body responsible for conformity assessment, are provided. This dialogue is provided relevant to ISO management system standards (in particular ISO 14001).

A special note on the difference between conformance and compliance that is a market distinction: an organization conforms to a standard; the organization complies with law.

Conformity Assessment

In the simplest explanation provided by ISO, "'conformity assessment' means checking that products, materials, services, systems or people measure up to the specifications of a relevant standard."

Conformity assessment is a 'demonstration that specified requirements related to a product, process, system, person or body are fulfilled'. (Source: Clause 2: 2.1: ISO/IEC 17000:2004(E/F/R))

Activities associated with conformity assessment may include testing, certification, accreditation, and verification of quality management or environmental management.

There are three types of conformity assessment activities under the four options listed in ISO 14001:2004:

  • first-party, which is done by the adopting organization
  • second-party, which is conducted by someone with an interest in the organization, such as a customer
  • third-party, which is performed by someone independent of the organization. This is how the EnviroReady Report and third-party certification or registration operates. There are subtle yet clearly distinguishing features between the Report and certification or registration, which an EnviroReady Accountant can explain.


Self-declaration means that an organization issues a statement based on its own determination that upon review of its management system to state that it has met all the specified requirements (in ISO 14001). Rather than seeking external assistance to prove it, the organization is retaining the responsibility for testing. The organization, in posting on the Registry's board, is accountable for its attestation.

The burden of proof that the organization has met all the requirements of ISO 14001 remains on the organization. Self-declaration to ISO 14001, as with registration/certification, only involves the assessment of an organization's environmental management system (EMS) and does not apply to products.


This term refers to a procedure by which a third party gives written assurance that a product, process or service conforms to specified requirements.


This term refers to a procedure by which a body indicates relevant characteristics of a product, product or services and then includes or registers the product, process or services in a publicly available list.

Accredited organizations known as "registrars" are engaged by a organization as third-parties to provide the certification that the organization has implemented ISO 14001. "Registration" is generally used in the United States and Canada for the procedure defined as "certification" above, while "certification" is the preferred term in Europe and other parts of the world. The market tends to use these terms interchangeably, although there are subtle differences between them.


This term refers to a procedure by which an authoritative body gives formal recognition that a body or person is competent to carry out specific tasks. Accreditation means that a body has been evaluated in accordance with internationally recognized standards (ISO/IEC 17021:2006) and has been found competent and therefore is authorized to register companies which have successfully demonstrated conformance to ISO 14001. The Registry in essence accredits EnviroReady Accountants.