ISO and NEN certification for your business

Published by:
Netherlands Chamber of Commerce, KVK
Netherlands Chamber of Commerce, KVK

Would you like to grow your business? Or stand out from other entrepreneurs? This is possible, for example, with an ISO or NEN certification. This shows that your business is committed to quality, safety and efficiency in your working methods and end product. Read here what an ISO or NEN certification is, and how it works.

What is ISO and NEN?

A business with ISO certification works according to an ISO or NEN standard. This standard is a guideline for a certain way of working. For example, the way to make a product. Or how to deliver a service. The standard lays down which steps must be followed, and who in your organisation is responsible for which step. By complying with the standard, you prove that the end product is safe. And of good quality.

The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) sets the standards. ISO is a globally recognised non-profit organisation. The Netherlands has the Royal Dutch Standardisation Institute Foundation (NEN). It keeps track of which standards exist and which businesses have which certification. Read more about the development of standards.

There are some 34,000 different standards in total. These are global, European (EU), and Dutch standards. The European standards specifically describe what is needed to meet the technical requirements of EU legislation.

Standards for different purposes

Your business can get certifications for different purposes and in different areas. Some are general and useful for any business, for example management systems. Other standards address specific industries, products, or business processes such as IT or transport.

These are the 3 most widely used standards worldwide:

ISO 27001 is a globally recognised standard on information security, cybersecurity, and privacy protection. The standard sets requirements for an information security management system. The standard is for all organisations, regardless of type, industry or size.

ISO 9001 is a globally recognised standard in the field of quality management. It means that your product or service meets the needs, requirements and wishes of customers. And complies with the law. The standard is for all organisations, regardless of type, industry or size.

ISO 14001 is the globally recognised standard for an environmental management system. This system is there to improve your policies to protect the environment and achieve your environmental objectives. The standard is for all organisations, regardless of type, industry or size. In practice, it is mainly businesses operating in industry, construction and agriculture that have this certificate.

Better business operations

You can improve your business operations by comparing your processes and practices with a standard. This allows you to work more efficiently and save costs. If you adapt your practices to the standard and receive certification for this, you can also show that you work efficiently.

Why apply for certification?

A business may apply for ISO or NEN certification for several reasons. Certification shows that a business is doing its best to follow best practice. It also makes your business more efficient. This can ensure reduced costs. Having a certificate can also set you apart from competitors and attract new customers. Certification may also be necessary to participate in international tenders.

Sometimes certification is mandatory

ISO or NEN certification is sometimes mandatory to provide certain services or products. In government tenders, certification is often a prerequisite. In addition, the Dutch central government also sees standards as a tool to meet legal requirements.

There are 2 options in the Netherlands:

  • The government has made some ISO and NEN certifications mandatory. This is the case if there is only 1 way for a product or service to comply with the law. For example, in the production of electrical sockets, playground equipment, or medical devices.
  • Some laws refer to a standard. In that case, certification is not mandatory, but the standard applies as a guideline. For this, a business must be able to view the standard. A business can compare its way of working with the requirements in the standard and adjust where necessary.

The texts of standards that apply as guidelines, so called imperatively referred standards, are available free of charge from NEN. Other standards you can buy on the NEN (in Dutch) or ISO website.

How to get a certificate?

How do you obtain the desired ISO or NEN certification? To do so, follow these steps:

  1. Determine which standard you need for your business processes and buy it from NEN or ISO.
  2. Compare your current way of working with the standard.
  3. Adjust your working method, for example, your production process, to comply with the standard. Record the new working method on paper as well.
  4. Inform your staff about the new working methods and train them.
  5. By organising an internal audit, you can check whether the new processes are applied. And therefore the standard is met.
  6. Then request an external audit. An independent certification organisation (in Dutch) checks whether your business meets the standard. This organisation looks at which processes have been defined and whether work is being done accordingly.
  7. If your business passes the audit, you will receive an ISO certificate.

Entrepreneurs can do the preparation themselves. But this can be time-consuming. You can also get help from a consultant or certification company. This does come at a cost.

A certification company performs the audit. The certificate is issued if the requirements are met.


The certification process and its preparation costs time and money. The costs largely depend on the size of your business. How many business processes are there? What all needs to be adapted to meet the standard? How many employees are involved and need to be trained in the new way of working?

A standard with the NEN costs between €20 and €400. Developing standards costs money and time. Standards are also copyrighted. The external audit and certification cost between €2000 and €4000. Ask for multiple price quotations for this. You can hire external guidance from a consultant or consulting firm. These often charge by the hour. Request several price quotations for this.

Validity and renewal of the certificate

An ISO or NEN certificate is usually valid for 3 years. During this period, your business conducts interim audits. You can perform these yourself or under the guidance of an advisor. The audits check whether the work processes still meet the standards. After 3 years, your business has to go through the certification process again to renew the certificate.

Questions relating to this article?

Please contact the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce, KVK