ISO Standards – Who are the interested parties?

Any organization which intends to achieve quality environmental or health and safety certification must understand the needs and expectations of interested parties. This is a mandatory requirement of the management systems standards ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and ISO 45001. But who exactly are interested parties and how do you manage them? It may not be easy to identify who the interested parties related to your Quality Management System (QMS) are, or what to do with this information once you have obtained it. Here is a bit of information to help you determine who your interested parties are, and how they affect your QMS processes.

Interested parties are so important that they are considered an integral part of the context of the organization. They should be well-understood before defining the scope of the management system.The justification for this is that interested parties will have an impact on the organization’s ability to provide products and services that consistently meet customer needs and legal requirements. The requirements function to determine which interested parties are relevant to the QMS, and the requirements of these parties that can affect the QMS.

In each standard, the requirement to understand the needs and expectations of interested parties is expressed almost identically: The organization shall determine the interested parties that are relevant to the management system and the requirements (needs and expectations) of these interested parties that are relevant to the management system.

When it comes to ISO 9001 interested parties, for example, the interested parties can be customers, owners, people in an organization, providers, bankers, regulators, unions, partners, society, competitors, and pressure groups. For ISO 14001, interested parties can be customers, communities, suppliers, regulators, non-governmental organizations, investors, employees. As for ISO 45001, examples of interested parties include workers, top management, managers, non-managerial persons, external providers, contractors, individuals, agency workers.

Simply listing suppliers, customers, communities etc. is not enough to meet the requirements of the standard, i.e. understanding the needs and expectations of relevant interested parties. These can be defined based on their relationship with the organization, by their: responsibility (investors), influence (pressure groups), proximity (neighbours), dependency (employees), representation (trade unions), authority (regulators), etc.

For an organization, it is important to identify relevant interested parties, determine their needs and expectations, rank them in terms of power and interest, and set objectives and priorities. Taking the time to understand the needs and expectations of your interested parties is worthwhile and essential to define the scope of your management system, ensure customer satisfaction, meet compliance obligations, the continual improvement of the organization and its management system, and meeting the requirements of ISO standards.If you understand the needs, expectations, and requirements of your interested parties, it is easy to see that these are critical to ensuring that your products or services meet the requirements. This is the reason why you have or would want to have a QMS. Therefore, it is important to know and understand your interested parties if you are to properly plan and implement the processes of your QMS.

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