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ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 in plain language


QualityZoneBoth "ISO 9000" and "ISO 14000" are actually families of standards which are referred to under these generic titles for convenience. Both families consist of standards and guidelines relating to management systems, and related supporting standards on terminology and specific tools, such as auditing (the process of checking that the management system conforms to the standard).

ISO 9000 is primarily concerned with "quality management". Like "beauty", everyone may have his or her idea of what "quality" is. In plain language, the standardized definition of "quality" in ISO 9000 refers to all those features of a product (or service) which are required by the customer. "Quality management" means what the organization does to ensure that its products conform to the customer's requirements.

ISO 14000 is primarily concerned with "environmental management". In plain language, this means what the organization does to minimize harmful effects on the environment caused by its activities.

Both ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 concern the way an organization goes about its work, and not directly the result of this work. In other words, they both concern processes, and not products – at least, not directly. Nevertheless, the way in which the organization manages its processes is obviously going to affect its final product. In the case of ISO 9000, it is going to affect whether or not everything has been done to ensure that the product meets the customer's requirements. In the case of ISO 14000, it is going to affect whether or not everything has been done to ensure a product will have the least harmful impact on the environment, either during production or disposal, either by pollution or by depleting natural resources.

However, neither ISO 9000 nor ISO 14000 are product standards. The management system standards in these families state requirements for what the organization must do to manage processes influencing quality (ISO 9000) or the processes influencing the impact of the organization's activities on the environment (ISO 14000).

In both cases, the philosophy is that these requirements are generic. No matter what the organization is or does, if it wants to establish a quality management system or an environmental management system, then such a system has a number of essential features which are spelled out in ISO 9000 or ISO 14000.

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