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ISO Management system standards

Some of ISO’s most well-known standards are management system standards. They provide a model to follow when setting up and operating a management system. Like all ISO standards, they are the result of international, expert consensus. Therefore, by implementing a management system standard, organizations can benefit from global management experience and good practice.

These standards can be applied to any organisation, large or small, whatever its product or service and regardless of its sector of activity.

An effective management system has many benefits including:

• more efficient resource use
• improved risk management, and
• increased customer satisfaction as services and products consistently deliver what they promise.

Continual improvement

All ISO's management system standards are based on the principle of continual improvement. An organization or company assesses its current situation, fixes objectives and develops policy, implements actions to meet these objectives and then measures the results. With this information the effectiveness of the policy, and the actions taken to achieve it, can be continually reviewed and improved.


Audits are a vital part of ISO's management system approach as they enable the company or organization to check how far their achievements meet their objectives. External audits also play a role in showing conformity to the standard.

In order to help the auditing of these standards, particularly for companies implementing more than one management system standard, ISO has released ISO 19011:2011. This standard provides specific guidance on internal and external management system audits.


Certification to management system standards is not a requirement. Organizations benefit from implementing these standards without having to be certified to them. In addition, some management system standards are guidelines and cannot be certified to, such as ISO 26000.

However, many organizations do decide to get certified to one or more of ISO’s management system standards. In order to do this they must contact an external certification body as ISO itself does not perform certification.

Read more about certification to management system standards.

Certification (third party conformity assessment) is not the only way to show conformity to management system standards. Alternatives include inviting the organization's customers to verify its implementation of the management system standard (second party assessment) or to self declare its conformity (first party assessment). Read more about conformity assessment.