ISO Certification and Suppliers

Mr. Pareto Head and Supply Chain comic strip


I work for a small family company that purchases items and potentially processes or packages them into heat protection materials. One of my existing customers is asking for ISO certification for some materials that I will sell to them. The material I’m trying to sell him comes from my supplier who is ISO 9001 certified, but my company is not. How can I show my customer that my supplier is ISO certified without the customer knowing who my supplier is?


The company is doing a value added process, and not a distributor.  As a result, if the customer is demanding ISO 9001 certification from the company, they need to make the decision, do they want to do business with the company? If so they need to pursue certification. If they do not want to pursue certification, they should tell the customer they do not want to pursue certification.  The customer can make the decision whether they will purchase product from the company.  I have had an experience where I did not want to do an audit with a company.  We told the customer, we will not do it.  The customer responded and came back with a reasonable proposal.  They wanted the business.

John G. Surak, PhD
Surak and Associates
Clemson, SC
A member of Stratecon International Consultants

First, ISO certification is for a company’s quality management system, not for particular materials.  I would let the customer know, on company letter head, that:  “We certify that the materials we purchased are from ISO 9001 certified suppliers only.  The name of these suppliers is company confidential.”

James D. Werner
Principal Consultant
Medical Device Quality Compliance, LLC

For more on this topic, please visit ASQ’s website.

One thought on “ISO Certification and Suppliers”

  1. I agree in principle with the two previous comments, ISO certification is for the QMS and not a material or even finished product but would explain clearly and respectfully to your customer that you flow down all requirements to your sub-suppliers and your product meets all their specifications. I would also submit a company Certificate of Compliance (C of C) as verification. Depending on the cost, you may even want to submit independent testing verification on the material that doesn’t identify your supplier but just verifies the material meets spec. This doesn’t have to be complicated but should show that you are certifying that the product is manufactured and delivered as specified by your company.
    Secondarily, even if you are not ISO certified, you should have an basic documented quality system of some type that is auditable by your customers. Especially in supplying to any regulated industry is this important to your customer. It assures them that you operate in a planned and controlled way. If the customer does audit you and demands proof of flow down to your confidential customer, you can have them sign a non-compete agreement before you reveal your supplier. Might want to also have an agreement with the supplier about exclusivity after discussing the end customer’s need to verify the quality of the supplied material. Customer satisfaction is dependent on good relationships and trust. I don’t think it is ever a good idea to totally reject a customer request without trying to resolve equitably.

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