Evaluating the effectiveness of non-conformance reporting systems of ISO 14001 certification auditing in South Africa: a certification body' perspective
Internationally, a call for research has been made to study third-party certification auditing (Albersmeier et al., 2009; Castka et al., 2015; Heras—Saizarbitoria & Boiral, 2013; Lal, 2004). In South Africa, legal non-compliance from prestigious organisations has led to a waning in the trust of ISO 14001 as a voluntary self-regulatory tool (Craigie et al., 2009; Nel & Wessels, 2010). Across various industries worldwide, scandals in the auditing profession have led to adverse perceptions about auditing (Dimitriu, 2017; Harney, 2005). Furthermore, the quality of non-conformance reporting and follow-up has come into question (Henderson & Gallagher, 2008; Kumar, 2016; Sweeney & Pierce, 2015). As management system auditing activities are similar in nature across various sectors, concerns relating to non-conformance reporting and follow-up may exist in the environmental management system (EMS) auditing as well. The quality of non-conformance reporting plays a major role in the auditing process. Undermining the value of non-conformance reporting may lead to the whole auditing process' value being negated (Birkmire et al., 2007; Tam et al., 2006). The study, therefore, evaluated the effectiveness of the non-conformance reporting systems of EMS (ISO 14001) certification auditing in South Africa from a selected Certification Body's perspective. As "effectiveness" is something that works as intended (Pölönen et al., 2011; Sadler, 1996), the non-conformance reporting systems' intent, as deduced from ISO 14001 (2015), is to identify a non-conformance and take action to eliminate the cause of the non-conformance including the prevention of recurrence. One-hundred and two (102) non-conformance reports, consisting of audit reports and corrective action plans, of forty-seven (47) clients across various industries were obtained from the selected certification body and evaluated. A scoring model (Glasson & Therivel, 2011; Lee et al., 1999) (where alphabetic scores are assigned based on qualitative criteria) was used to evaluate and categorise non-conformance reports. According to the scoring model, criteria rated as A-C is regarded as a satisfactory, which, in the case of this study, is synonymous to effective. The results showed that overall 93% of the non-conformance reports were deemed to be satisfactory, of which 39% received the best performance grade (A-B). The remaining 54% graded a C-score which is indicative of "just satisfactory" despite inadequacies and/or omissions. The study also highlighted areas of weakness that require addressing, with the weakest area being the effectiveness of the acceptance of the root cause analysis. 77% of non-conformances reported, scored an unsatisfactory rating (D-F) due to the root cause, in some instances, only the corrective action plan, being accepted by the certification body without the root cause analysis. The research furthermore discusses the strengths and weaknesses and providing recommendations for improvement.