The following commentary has been provided by Brian Rothery. It is being presented here by Simply Quality, so that our visitors can form their own opinions about the topics discussed.

The Benchmark Group

Author Brian Rothery outlines the latest developments in his thinking that industry needs to balance the growing powers of ISO and the certification bodies.

The article 'Third Force Badly Needed' on this site confirmed this writer's opinion that a third force was indeed needed to balance the growing powers of the alliance which is ISO and the certification agencies. ISO might deny the existence of such an alliance, and wash its hands in a Vatican-type way, repeating that 'ISO does not certify. There is no such thing as ISO 9000 certification'. The same ISO has certifiers amongst its 100 international member country standards agencies, and ISO is actively working through QSAR to bring into being an international scheme for the peer accreditation of certification bodies.

Let's think about this and ask a few questions, before some certification agency decides who and who does not have the right to ask questions about standards and certification.

These questions and communications from around the world to this writer from companies worried about 'ISO 9000 certification' (which according to ISO does not exist), are the basis of a new project known as the Benchmark Group.

The Benchmark Group

The Benchmark Group is a voluntary association of companies, representing different sectors of industry and services who have agreed to formalise and publish their codes of practice for quality, environmental probity and health and safety, as benchmarks for other companies in their sectors and any other company in the developed or developing world.

It was founded by Brian Rothery, the author of the internationally selling books on the subjects of ISO 9000, ISO 14000 and standards and certification, as a response to the need for a third force other than ISO and the certification agencies, to develop benchmarks for agreement within industry, and to bring some measure of control to bear on the writers of the standards and regulations and on the certifiers - in other words, for industry to 'regulate the regulators' to some reasonable extent.

It will fully use ISO standards but will decide itself what benchmarks provide a minimum requirement for meeting a standard. While it will co-operate with certification bodies, it reserves the right to differ with them should it judge this to be required.

The member companies

Founder member companies, who will agree to offer their codes of practice as benchmarks, are sought from the following sectors: general manufacturing, chemicals, food and drink, print and packaging, transport, software, hospitality, healthcare, banking and insurance, service stations, supermarkets and catering. Other sectors are open to membership. The founder member companies will take turns at handling the administration of the Benchmark Group.

Relations between member companies

Each member company agrees to consider other benchmarks from competitive companies in the same sector or other companies and to allow all such companies to join the group and offer improved benchmarks or suggestions for such. The minimum criteria for membership in the group is that each member should offer commentary on the evolving or existing benchmarks and to agree them with the other members. It will be a matter of honour that member companies do not withhold information or better codes of practice which could improve a benchmark.

In time the industry association to which member companies belong may be asked to take over much of the above, leaving monitoring and publishing to the Benchmark Group.


The main objective is for industry to increase its role in the development of standards and certification schemes and in the regulations they engender or support, and in particular to ensure that standards and their certification schemes do not become barriers to trade and enterprise, particularly for small companies and for those in the developing world.

Another objective is to allow industry to benefit from standardization and benchmarking, using a generic approach which is fundamental to standards themselves. This should reduce confusion and complexity, as well as the huge amount of duplication of effort now going on in companies worldwide.

A third main objective is to offer industry a third force beyond ISO and the regulators, including the certification bodies, and to guard against the abuse of both standards and certification schemes.

The planned benchmarks

Quality management systems, to ISO 9000 requirements, which incorporate sectoral codes of practice for each industry sector represented.

Environmental management systems, to ISO 14000 requirements, which incorporate environmental and waste management procedures, and product life cycle assessment by sectoral group.

Health and safety, process and product safety, and emergency response procedures by sector.

Audit procedures for the above which should also be benchmarks for certification inspectors.

Services standards by service sector.

Standard operating procedures by manufacturing sector.

Other related products will include training courses and menu driven software versions of the above.

Member company representation

The representative sought from each member company is the quality and/or environmental officer and/or health and safety officer, or other person whom the member company assigns. Most work will be done over the Internet, but, where travel to meetings is necessary, each member company will pay its representative's costs.

Main activities

The main activities are

The initial priority is to find the following members who can supply benchmarks in:

  1. US and UK Health and Safety systems.
  2. Comprehensive ISO 9000 systems.
  3. ISO 14000 (or BS 7750) EMS systems.
  4. Standard operating systems.
  5. Waste management procedures.
  6. Services sector codes of practice

How to become a member

If you are in a position to represent your company in the above areas, simply email Brian Rothery in Dublin, Ireland at giving your details and some background on the company. Please also indicate a willingness to share or develop a company code of practice, or more fully develop one, where there is not already a full code of practice which might constitute an initial benchmark, and to work on a voluntary basis building the Group. Hopefully, the rest should happen as the dialogue begins. These standards are sweeping the world. This may be a great opportunity for a few really good companies, and some committed people, to make a contribution to society, and to achieve something worthwhile at a personal level.

Brian Rothery's US publisher is Ashgate in Vermont Gower Publishing is his UK publisher Fax +44 1252 344405. The latest books expressing his ideas are 'ISO 14000 and ISO 9000' and 'Standards and Certification in Europe'. He has 11 other overseas publishers in translation.

This commentary has been presented here by Simply Quality, so that our visitors can form their own opinions about the topics discussed.