Standards and certification

Sustainability standards and certifications are voluntary, usually third party-assessed, norms and standards relating to environmental, social, ethical and safety issues, adopted by companies to demonstrate the performance of their organizations,  products or services in specific areas. There are perhaps up to 500 such standards and the pace of introduction has increased in the last decade. The trend started in the late 1980s and 90s with the introduction of Ecolabels and standards for services and products. A standard is normally developed by a broad range of stakeholders and experts in a particular sector and includes a set of practices or criteria for how work in a hairsalon with good working and safety conditions. 

Certification can be a useful tool to add credibility, by demonstrating that your product or service meets the expectations of your customers. For some industries, certification is a legal or contractual requirement.

What is a standard?

In essence, a standard is an agreed way of doing something. It could be about making a product, managing a process, delivering a service or supplying materials – standards can cover a huge range of activities undertaken by organizations and used by their customers.

Standards are the distilled wisdom of people with expertise in their subject matter and who know the needs of the organizations they represent – people such as manufacturers, sellers, buyers, customers, trade associations, users or regulators.

Standards cover a wide range of subjects from construction to nanotechnology, from energy management to health and safety, from cricket balls to goalposts. They can be very specific, such as to a particular type of product, or general such as management practices.

The point of a standard is to provide a reliable basis for people to share the same expectations about a product or service. This helps to enhange customer protection and confidence.

Organizations might use:

  • a quality management standard to help them work more efficiently and reduce failures in the working process
  • an environmental management standard to help reduce environmental impacts, reduce waste and be more sustainable
  • a health and safety standard to help reduce accidents in the workplace

What is a management system

A management system is the framework of policies, processes and procedures used by an organization to ensure that it can fulfill all the tasks required to achieve its objectives. These objectives will be a mix covering many aspects of the organization's operations (including financial success, safe operation, product quality, client relationships, legislative and regulatory conformance, worker management, etc.).

For instance, an environmental management system enables organizations to improve their environmental performance and an occupational health and safety management system (OHSMS) enables an organization to control its occupational health and safety risks, etc.

Examples of management system standards are:

  • ISO 9000: standards for quality management systems (QMS)
  • ISO 14000 standards for environmental management systems.
  • OHSAS 18001 standards for Health and Safety.

A sector or industry branch can also develop their own Management system. The Hair & Beauty  sector can develop their own Green Salon management system. At a later stage such a system could be certified.