The 60-second interview: Howard Kerr, CEO of BSI

Posted on 9 Jul 2012 by The Manufacturer

Jane Gray talks to Howard Kerr, CEO of the British Standards Institute (BSI), about the cost and value of business certifications.

"Many ISO certifications, including IS014001, started life as BSI standards and have since been adopted internationally," says Howard Kerr, CEO of BSI.

Manufacturer’s are under increasing pressure to comply with regulation. Are BSI certifications adding to the red tape?
It is a myth that standards are like regulation or red tape. For a start, standards do not keep piling up in the way that regulation does. We remove standards that are no longer relevant and merge ones which develop too much overlap. We absolutely appreciate that there is already a lot of complexity out there and we do not want to add to that. But our view is that standards are made by industry for industry. We don’t write standards – we facilitate their creation.

Certifications are increasingly becoming a condition of trade when supply contracts are signed. What is the cost of certification and is it value for money?
The cost of certification depends on the size of company and on the scope of the implementation. But, for example, a standard quality management certification for a company of around 100 employees based on one UK site will be £6000-£7000 for initial assessment and certification and £3000-£4000 for annual renewal. We understand that any cost is a burden to businesses at the moment. But achieving a certification should be seen as an investment rather than a cost. They can be essential in securing business and, particularly with the environmental and energy standards they lead directly to savings elsewhere. Other benefits too can be substantial, for example, increased customer or employee satisfaction and better reputation or brand management. We have done market research to verify these tangible benefits and it very quickly puts the issue of cost into context so that, as our new strap line says, we can help in ‘making excellence a habit’.

Some might be confused by the fact that ISO standards are delivered by BSI. What is the relationship between the two?
Many ISO certifications, including IS014001, started life as BSI standards and have since been adopted internationally. BSI feeds into the hierarchy of certification levels through its national committee and this has input into the creation of new standards, the review of standards and indeed the abolition or merging of standards which are felt to have become redundant. Representatives from industry sit on these committees and we are trying to encourage more SMEs to take a role here so that we have input from a wide range of company types. Even if companies are not on the committees however, they can engage in consultations via our website – and often via trade bodies, like EEF for example.

The world’s second biggest selling business certification, ISO 14001 for environmental management, is currently under review. Why is this?
It is normal practice to regularly review all our standards. They need to respond to market changes and anticipate market needs. There is however, a broader initiative afoot to harmonise our business management standards. This is so that, once a company has achieved one standard it will become easier, more cost-effective and efficient to adopt additional standards with the end ambition of creating a comprehensive best practice management system throughout an organisation.

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