The short answer: It varies. The cost of an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) certification, for example, an ISO 9001 certification, depends on many factors, including:
- Size of the organization (how many offices)
- The complexity of the business
- Industry sector
- Annual revenue
- Number of employees
- Gaps between the company’s current quality systems and those defined in the ISO 9001 standard
- Cost of employees to develop documentation, and to conduct internal audits and system review meetings
- Cost of an ISO consultant
- Cost of certification auditors (external certification audit fees)
- Surveillance audits (there are two)
- Ongoing maintenance costs
Just one copy of the ISO standards can cost $120 or more, and auditor costs are approximately $1,300 per day. For small businesses, the minimum for everything might be $10,000 to $15,000.
ISO certification means that a third party has independently validated that a company conforms to a set of standards established by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). The ISO has developed over 22,000 international standards covering a variety of industries and topics.
ISO 9001:2015 (the latest version of the standard) defines the requirements for developing a quality management system (QMS), which deals with meeting customer requirements and overall customer satisfaction. The main benefits of ISO 9001 certification are that it will enhance employee performance and productivity as well as improve customer satisfaction.
To achieve ISO certification, a company has to submit to a series of audits performed by an independent organization called a certification body. During the certification process, these third-party auditors conduct certification audits to determine if the organization’s processes, as well as its products and services, meet the ISO criteria.
External audit fees are based on the cost to maintain ISO certification for three years.
The number of days the auditors of the certification body spends conducting the audit determines the cost of the certification audit. The number of auditor days is based on the number of employees in the organization. In addition, the external audit fees depend on an organization’s size and how many branches or operational sites it has.
The internal and external audits often identify some nonconformances, defined in ISO 17021 as the non-fulfillment of requirements. While one nonconformance isn’t necessarily a bad thing, a number of nonconformances could indicate major weaknesses in an organization’s quality management system. A company should correct both minor and major nonconformances as soon as possible.