One important facet of the Volkswagen emissions scandal that has so far avoided attention is the company’s certifications to the ISO 9001 standard for quality management and ISO 14001 standard for environmental management.
VW or the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) have replied to the simple question: “Volkswagen has worldwide certification to ISO 9001 and ISO 14001. Doesn’t the scandal over VW’s emissions manipulation indicate a failure of certification to the standards, in terms of meeting customers’ quality requirements, customer satisfaction and environmental management?”
Also silent were TUV Nord, the German certification body that issued VW’s certifications, and a spokesman for both the International Accreditation Forum (IAF) and the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC). The last two groups promote standards and certification as tools for achieving public policy goals.
For many people, the VW scandal advises caution against a blind faith in standards. However, ISO and the other main figures dance around the question at hand. This silence is a matter of serious concern because VW’s certifications are intended to give customers and regulatory authorities confidence that quality requirements and environmental responsibilities are being met.
One of the objectives of ISO 9001 is to make enterprises more efficient in turning out products that enhance customer satisfaction, by ensuring that these products meet customers’ quality requirements — both stated and implicit. It is unlikely that the software designed to cheat emissions tests, as VW has admitted to installing, was a requirement of the 11 million customers who bought the affected vehicles. Clearly, VW’s ISO 9001 systems and certification did not deliver on customer satisfaction.
ISO 14001 is aimed at enabling organizations to reduce negative impacts on the environment as a result of their activities. It is designed to be a tool for meeting regulatory requirements. Despite VW’s ISO 14001 systems and certification, the company deceived its customers about the environmental impact of the cars they had bought and manipulated the results of regulators’ pollution tests.
It appears that VW no longer meets the requirements for its certifications and soon there will have to be an answer.
06 Nov 2015