What Are The 7 Principles Of ISO 9001?

Kate Onissiphorou

by Kate Onissiphorou

9th November 2022

The seven principles of ISO 9001 are the foundation of establishing a quality management system (QMS) for your organisation. Created by ISO’s committee of experts, the key principles are:

  • People engagement
  • Customer focus
  • Leadership
  • Process approach
  • Improvement
  • Evidence-based decision making
  • Relationship management

These seven principles are designed to help you manage your organisation to a consistently high standard in line with internationally-recognised practices. Adhering to these principles has many benefits for both your business and your customers

Read on to learn more about each of the seven principles of ISO 9001 and what they mean for your organisation.

ISO 9001: principles of quality management

ISO 9001 word cloud

Identifying risks is crucial in establishing a responsive QMS that can address problems efficiently and effectively. You won’t waste time, money, effort, or other resources if your organisation is well-prepared for contingencies. You’ll also have a competitive advantage if your QMS is highly responsive to opportunities that may come your way.

The latest version of the ISO 9001 standard, ISO 9001:2015, has shifted the focus of the quality management system onto risk-based thinking. Instead of simply focusing on the neutral aspects of management, such as monitoring and controlling, a risk-based thinking approach carefully considers the various risks involved. This is essential to establishing and improving the processes, protocols, and controls in a quality management system.

This risk-based approach is further expounded into the seven principles of ISO 9001, which are generally applicable to the whole ISO 9000 suite of standards.

The 7 principles of ISO 9001

How many principles are there in ISO 9001?

The ISO 9000 suite of quality standards, which includes ISO 9001:2015, has seven foundational principles that guide its formulation and implementation. More details on each of these principles are set out below.

1. Engagement of people

This principle is designed to ensure that employees and stakeholders at all levels of the business are involved in quality management. To achieve this, workers should be empowered in a way that enhances their competence and understanding of your organisation’s quality objectives.

Employees must have a deep understanding of the organisation, especially when it comes to its mission and long-term goals. They should also have a clear understanding of the value of their individual role and how it contributes to the organisation. Not only will this make them feel more empowered, but it shows you’re committed to improving quality standards across the business.

One way to promote employee engagement is to encourage initiatives that further improve the QMS, such as regular surveys and assessments.

2. Customer focus

Whether your organisation is profit-oriented or not, it will be more effective if its strategies and operations are focused on the welfare of customers or clients. You can demonstrate your commitment to customers by continually improving the quality of your products and services.

Having the right data is key if you want to effectively respond to customers’ needs. Again, formal and informal surveys offer useful insight and provide valuable data that you can use to improve your organisation. Whether good or bad, customer feedback can help your organisation adapt its operations in response to the needs and wants of customers.

3. Leadership

The main goal here is to create a strong management team that can lead the organisation in the right direction. Your management team must have a clear vision of the future of the organisation and how it can achieve its QMS goals. Executives and managers should also be inspired and driven by common goals and a shared sense of purpose. Communicating this vision to other non-management employees can, in turn, increase efficiency, productivity and employee motivation.

4. Process approach

This principle focuses on the importance of promoting a process-driven culture that’s geared towards continuous improvement. To achieve this, you can follow the Plan Do Check Act (PDCA) principle. The PDCA cycle can be applied across different areas of the business and involves planning, resource allocation, monitoring, and evaluation. It’s a proven way to help organisations grow and improve across various aspects. Illustration showing the ISO 9001 Plan Do Check Act principle

5. Improvement

As part of the process approach, there should be an emphasis on continual improvement based on customer and stakeholder feedback. In practice, this means your organisation must implement processes to continually identify non-conformities, eliminate inefficiencies, measure results and then implement new policies.

6. Evidence-based decision making

The decisions of top executives and middle managers are only as sound as the data on which they’re based. Baseless intuitions have no place in sensitive business decisions; all important decisions must be supported by reliable and verifiable data or evidence. This can be in the form of technical papers or verbal communication from key stakeholders.

7. Relationship management

Your organisation must develop and strengthen mutually beneficial relationships with its various internal and external stakeholders, including suppliers. Suppliers can be key to your organisation’s competitive advantage so it’s important to build a relationship based on mutual trust and respect rather than short-term gains.

Who developed the quality principles?

The seven quality management principles of ISO 9001:2015 were originally developed by ISO’s quality assurance committee. This committee is responsible for formulating the various standards and quality assurance documents of ISO. The principles are generally applicable to the entire IS0 9000 suite of standards.

The benefit of following ISO 9001 principles

The main benefit of following the seven principles of ISO 9001 is that your organisation is more likely to pass the ISO certification process. Achieving ISO certification will help your company or institution to gain prestige and international recognition, while giving it the competitive edge it needs to attract and retain more customers.


The seven principles of ISO 9001 are the foundation of implementing a robust and internationally-recognised quality management system. Whatever type of business you run, following these principles will help you to comply with the ISO certification requirements. It will also give your organisation a more competitive advantage and global recognition.

ReAgent’s ISO certifications

ReAgent currently holds four ISO accreditations: ISO 9001 for quality management, the ISO 14001 environmental certification, ISO 13485 for quality management systems relating to medical devices, and ISO 45001 for occupational health and safety.

If you’d like any further information about our ISO certifications, please feel free to contact our friendly team.


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