QSE Certification : Quality, Safety and Environment Standards

The QSE certification (Quality, Safety, Environment) is a reference for companies aspiring to excellence in these key areas. Closely linked to international standards such as ISO 9001, 14001 and 45001, it guarantees continuous improvement and strengthens the reputation of organizations.

What is the QSE certification ?

The QSE certification is a voluntary initiative to assess and confirm the compliance of a management system with international quality, safety and environmental standards. It is intended for all organizations, regardless of their size, field of activity or location. Through this compliance certification, an organization highlights its best practices and is committed to continuous improvement of QSE performance.

This certification is based on three main standards :

  • The ISO 9001 standard, which establishes quality management criteria, focusing on customer satisfaction, process optimization, gap prevention and performance evaluation.
  • The ISO 14001 standard, which defines the criteria for environmental management, focusing on pollution prevention, reduction of environmental impacts, compliance with environmental laws and communication with stakeholders.
  • The ISO 45001 standard, which specifies criteria for occupational health and safety management, covering the prevention of occupational accidents and diseases, the management of psychosocial risks, compliance with safety standards and employee engagement.

An independent external body, accredited by COFRAC (French Accreditation Committee) or by a similar entity internationally, is responsible for issuing the QSE certification. This certification requires an audit, both documentary and in the field, to ensure that the management system meets the standards and that it is in fact progressing.

The validity of the certification is three years, through annual follow-up audits.

Which organizations offer QSE certification ?

To obtain a QSE certification, it is essential to contact an independent certifying body. It will assess whether your management system is in line with ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and ISO 45001. The bodies authorized to certify are varied: they can be national or international, public or private, and cover a wide or specialized spectrum. The choice of the organization must be made carefully, according to your specific objectives and expectations.

Criteria for choosing a certifying body

When selecting a certifying body, consider the following criteria :

  • Accreditation : It is proof that the organization is competent and impartial, validated by an independent authority. In France, COFRAC is responsible for this delivery, while IAF and EA play a similar role at the international level. Strong accreditation ensures the organization’s compliance with certification requirements.
  • Reputation : The reputation of an organization can strengthen your credibility in front of your customers, suppliers, partners and regulators. Learn about the organization’s reputation through its references, feedback, publications and labels
  • Proximity : An organization able to support you closely in your certification process is preferable to benefit from personalized advice, responsiveness and flexibility. Check the organization’s geographical presence, network, customer support and audit procedures
  • Cost : The price of certification varies depending on many factors. This is an investment that must be assessed against the anticipated benefits. Do not hesitate to compare quotes to find the most suitable offer.

Examples of certifying bodies

There are many QSE certification bodies. Some of them are :

  • AFNOR Certification : International leader, it offers audits adapted to the ISO standards mentioned, benefiting from a strong reputation and expertise and a significant customer proximity, with locations in more than 100 countries and 13 regions in France.
  • Bureau Veritas Certification : A key player in the sector, it offers integrated or specific audits, backed by solid experience and a broad global presence, with 80 offices in France and coverage in more than 140 countries.
  • DEKRA Certification : Specialized and reliable, it provides tailor-made audits, with a central customer approach thanks to its 20 French agencies and its presence in more than 50 countries.

What are the specific QSE certification requirements for my industry ?

QSE certification is based on the ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and ISO 45001 standards, which are universally applied to any organization. However, depending on your field, special requirements may be added or intensified ISO standards.

These additional requirements may come from legislation, the expectations of your customers or partners, or specific frameworks for your sector.

Regulatory requirements

Compliance with current laws is essential and varies according to your field of activity, affecting quality, occupational safety, environmental protection or social responsibility. For example, in the food industry, it is imperative to follow health, hygiene, traceability and quality labels. For the building sector, technical standards, safety and eco-labels are required. QSE certification facilitates the identification and adoption of regulatory standards specific to your sector.

Customer requirements

In some industries, customer demands are higher than legal or ISO standards. In the automotive industry, for example, it is often necessary to comply with specific manufacturer standards, including quality, safety and environment. Players in the health sector are subject to the requirements of medical organizations, with specific quality and ethical criteria. QSE certification attests to your commitment to these requirements, reinforcing the loyalty of your customers.

Partner requirements

Collaborating with partners sometimes involves adhering to their own QSE standards, which may vary. In textiles, it is essential to associate with entities that respect social and ethical standards, often determined by charters or labels. The energy sector requires compliance with safety and performance standards, dictated by specific agreements. QSE certification ensures harmony and efficiency in your partnership relationships, proving your adherence to QSE principles.

Sector-specific standards

Some sectors can rely on specific standards, enriching ISO standards. These guides or standards are often developed by professional organizations or trade unions. Thus, the aeronautics sector can refer to the EN 9100, while the hotel industry can move towards the European Ecolabel. These standards offer a significant competitive advantage, thanks to the QSE certification that ensures their integration and respect.

What are the steps to obtain a QSE certification ?

Obtaining a QSE certification is a voluntary process requiring a significant commitment from the company. This process involves complying with ISO 9001, ISO 14001, and ISO 45001 standards, as well as the specific requirements related to its sector. It also requires the use of an independent certifying body to assess the conformity and effectiveness of the integrated management system. The following are the main steps to obtaining QSE certification:

1. Prepare for certification

In the beginning, it is essential to make a diagnosis of the current situation, define the scope and objectives of the certification, design an action plan, and raise staff awareness. The aim is to ensure that the company has an effective, well documented and functional integrated management system that meets both ISO standards and stakeholder expectations. Selecting an accredited certifying body, offering services adapted to the needs and budget of the company is also essential.

2. Perform the initial audit

The initial audit by the certifying body is a key moment. It consists of two phases: a first phase to review the documentation of the management system to assess its relevance, and a second phase to visit the company’s sites to verify the effective application of the system. This initial audit helps to identify system strengths and weaknesses and to identify any non-conformities that need to be addressed.

3. Obtain the certification

After an initial satisfactory audit, the company receives the audit report stating the compliance and effectiveness of its integrated management system. The QSE certificate is then awarded for three years, symbolizing a commitment to quality, safety, and respect for the environment. This certification is a considerable asset to enhance the company’s commitment to its customers, employees and stakeholders.

4. Maintain and improve certification

To maintain QSE certification and maximize its benefits, the company must commit to a continuous improvement approach. This involves conducting regular internal audits to ensure the proper functioning of the management system, correcting non-conformities, measuring performance and satisfaction, and implementing improvement actions.

Annual monitoring audits, carried out by the certifying body, ensure the maintenance of the compliance and effectiveness of the system. Every three years, a renewal audit is required to renew the certificate.

Cost of QSE certification : what you need to know

Investing in QSE certification has many advantages for a company, especially in terms of performance, competitiveness and brand image. Nevertheless, it is essential to understand and optimize the associated costs.

The main costs to anticipate are :

Installation of the integrated management system

The implementation of an integrated management system, compliant with ISO 9001, ISO 14001, and ISO 45001, involves preliminary expenses in training, consulting, hardware, software, and communication. These costs vary according to the size of the company, its sector, its degree of maturity and its objectives. They can range from a few thousand to several tens of thousands of euros.

Certification audit costs

The audit fees for obtaining and maintaining certification, charged by the certifying body, depend on the size of the company, its sector, the scope and complexity of the integrated managerial system. They include travel expenses, time spent, report writing and issuing certificates and also range from a few thousand to tens of thousands of euros annually.

Maintenance of the integrated management system

To maintain and improve the integrated management system, and therefore maintain the QSE certification while optimizing its benefits, continuous costs are to be expected. These include positions similar to the installation (training, consulting, etc.) and also vary according to several factors related to the company. The amount can range from a few thousand to several tens of thousands of euros per year.

The total budget for a QSE certification can be substantial but optimizable. Reducing these costs involves a strategic approach to certification, such as choosing an appropriate certifying body, conducting combined audits, or pooling resources. The financial benefits obtained through certification, such as lower costs related to non-conformities or prevention, make this investment advantageous, contributing to the company’s growth and differentiation in the market.

How long does it take to get a QSE certification ?

Obtaining a QSE certification (Quality, Safety, Environment) represents a demanding journey in time and discipline. The installation of an integrated management system and the certification audit are key steps that depend heavily on :

  • The size and complexity of the organization : Large organizations with complex structures will require more time to develop, document, apply and refine their management system, as well as to pass the certification audit.
  • The maturity of the integrated management system : A well-established and efficient system will speed up the audit and certification process.
  • The choice of certification body : Opting for a responsive and flexible body reduces the time required for the organization and completion of the certification audit.
  • Stakeholder availability and engagement : Strong stakeholder involvement and availability (management, employees, customers, suppliers, etc.) accelerate the certification process. The duration of obtaining QSE certification is not fixed, but the average is between 6 and 18 months, varying according to several criteria.
  • Preparation for certification : Between 3 and 12 months, depending on the complexity of the organization, the maturity of the management system, the choice of the certification body and the commitment of stakeholders.
  • Initial audit : 1 to 3 months, influenced by the same factors as preparation for certification.
  • Obtaining certification : Generally 1 to 2 months, depending on the speed of the certifying body, the type and number of non-conformities to be resolved, and the commitment of stakeholders.

The process to obtain a QSE certification requires time, but gives the organization a management system recognized and valued over the long term.

Is there a renewal to be done regarding the QSE certification ?

QSE certification, far from being permanent, is rather a process of continuous improvement. It requires regular renewal to ensure alignment of the integrated management system with ISO 9001, ISO 14001, and ISO 45001 standards, as well as industry-specific criteria.

The QSE recertification process is as follows :

  • The QSE certificate is valid for three years. During this period, the organization must continuously improve its integrated management system. This involves conducting internal audits, dealing with non-conformities and corrective actions, monitoring performance and satisfaction indicators, and carrying out improvement actions.
  • Annually, a monitoring audit is required. Carried out by the certification body, this audit aims to assess the effectiveness and proper functioning of the integrated management system. It focuses on the most critical or sensitive elements, as well as regulatory, normative or organizational changes. This audit may confirm the validity of the certificate or lead to its suspension in case of major non-conformities.
  • Every three years, the company must undergo a renewal audit. The latter, similar to the initial audit, includes a literature review and a site visit to reassess system compliance and effectiveness. This audit may result in the renewal of the certificate or its withdrawal if major non-conformities are identified.

Renewing the QSE certification represents an opportunity for the company to revise and boost its integrated management system. This gives it the opportunity to update with the latest developments in QSE standards, which incorporate advanced practices and adapt to current market trends.

La procédure classique

Revue documentaire

Voici la liste des documents nécessaires pour l'ouverture du dossier :
Proforma ou facture finale
Fiche descriptive pour chaque code de nomenclature
Rapports de test ou certificats d'analyse pour chaque code de nomenclature
Certificat de qualité ISO 9001 ou équivalent
Déclaration d'importation à demander à votre acheteur (selon la destination)


Revue documentaire

Voici la liste des documents nécessaires pour l'ouverture du dossier :
Proforma ou facture finale
Fiche descriptive pour chaque code de nomenclature
Rapports de test ou certificats d'analyse pour chaque code de nomenclature
Certificat de qualité ISO 9001 ou équivalent
Déclaration d'importation à demander à votre acheteur (selon la destination)


Revue documentaire

Voici la liste des documents nécessaires pour l'ouverture du dossier :
Proforma ou facture finale
Fiche descriptive pour chaque code de nomenclature
Rapports de test ou certificats d'analyse pour chaque code de nomenclature
Certificat de qualité ISO 9001 ou équivalent
Déclaration d'importation à demander à votre acheteur (selon la destination)


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