Many companies see management system certifications as a tool to add credibility to the organisation, as they guarantee that a product or service meets the expectations of the customers. However, managing multiple certifications can worsen the firm’s performance due to a possible conflict of interests. A recent study co-authored by the UB Business School researchers Merce Bernardo and Claudio Cruz-Cazares has, though, identified three combinations of certifications that show consistent leverage on Portuguese firm performance.

The results were published in the International Journal of Production Economics in December 2019 under the title Do multiple certifications leverage firm performance? A dynamic approach. The study was co-authored by Alfonso Hernandez-Vivanco (University of Barcelona & EUSS), Pedro Domingues, Paulo Sampaio (University of Minho), Merce Bernardo and Claudio Cruz-Cazares (University of Barcelona).

The results suggest that ISO 9001 could be the main driver in multiple certifications to leverage firm performance in terms of profiting from sales, assets and using capital efficiently. This standard certifies the compliance with quality requirements based on quality management principles, such as a strong customer focus, the involvement of people, the process approach and continual improvement, which should, in turn, ensure that customers get consistent products and services which meets both their needs and the norm requirements.

In addition to ISO 9001, the analysis included ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001. The ISO 14001 certification sets out the criteria for an environmental management system and, therefore, can provide assurance that environmental impact is being improved. On the other hand, OHSAS 18001 provides a framework to identify, control and decrease health and safety risks within the workplace, thus making clear that the firm views employee’s health and safety as a priority.

The authors came upon three combinations of certifications that show consistent improvement on firm performance. ISO 9001 is the common factor in all the combinations, which are: 1) ISO 9001; 2) ISO 9001 + ISO 14001; 3) ISO 9001 + ISO 14001 + OHSAS 18001. Firms certified by these standards improve their performance in sales, assets and the efficient use of capital. However, the results show no evidence of significant changes in firm performance when ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001 are held neither solely nor combined. On the other hand, the adoption of ISO 9001 + OHSAS 18001 only allows significant improvements in the return on sales ratio.

On the whole, the evidence presented in this study suggests that firms can efficiently deal with the complexity of multiple certifications and take advantage of it.