Q: Can a contract include a requirement stating that the manufacturer of the materials to be installed as part of the job must be ISO 9001 and ISO 14000 listed? My question is in reference to a contract I received that is requiring this.
A: In general, contracts between business entities are enforceable unless they violate laws or are contrary to public policy. Private businesses entering into commercial contracts have a great deal of freedom in establishing contract terms.
One of the common uses of ISO standards is to clearly delineate requirements in commercial contracts. This can, and often does, include requirements for third-party certification of suppliers to ISO 9001-2008: Quality management systems–Requirements and/or ISO 14001-2004: Environmental management systems – Requirements with guidance for use.
This requirement is usually met by providing a copy of the certificate issued by a third-party certification body (registrar) that lists the name of the organization certified and the scope of the certification.
Based on the information provided along with your question, it appears that the question actually relates to a material specification that was included as part of a request for proposal (RFP) from a governmental entity. Note: the contract has not been included with this post to protect the anonymity of the questioner and the governmental entity.
The authority of governmental contracting officers is more limited. They must comply with applicable purchasing statutes and regulations. Whether or not a requirement for certification to ISO 9001 and/or ISO 14001 is permissible would be determined by reviewing these contracting rules. These rules also often provide mechanisms for contesting the award of a contract if it is believed to be unfair.
There are often opportunities to request clarification of information included in a government-issued RFP. This may be something to consider in this situation since the requirements in this RFP appear to be unclear, such as:
- There is no comprehensive “list” of certified companies so there is no mechanism for a manufacturer to be listed.
- There is no ISO 14000 standard. There are over 20 different standards in the ISO 14000 family – each with a different number. I assume the RFP is referring to ISO 14001.
- It is not clear which of the materials specified in the contract must be manufactured by an organization that is certified to the ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 standards.
(Note: the contract has not been included with this post to protect the anonymity of the questioner and the governmental entity).
I hope this helps.
Thea Dunmire, JD, CIH, CSP
Chair, ASC Z1-Audit Subcommittee
ENLAR Compliance Services, Inc.
For more on this topic, please visit ASQ’s website.