ISO Clause Focus - "Context of the Organisation"

ISO Clause Focus - "Context of the Organisation"

  • Date: Wednesday 19th July 2017
  • PDF: Download

SSG’s quarterly ISO E-Bulletin zooms in on a clause of the ISO standards each time, to unpack and explain requirements for its readers and assist them with attaining or maintaining certification to the relevant standard. 


This quarter we are looking at the Context of the Organisation.


What is the ‘Context’ of an organisation?

Whether large or small, public sector or private, there are numerous internal and external factors which can influence an organisation’s performance and effectiveness.  These can come from the organisation itself, local communities, national policies or even global conditions and certain factors can bring risks to the business (e.g. the 2008 global downturn) or opportunities for the business (emerging markets or new technology).

The new ISO standards require that a system examines the internal and external arenas which affect, or can be affected by its management system, so that action can be taken to respond accordingly.


However, in its most basic form the process that is implied by this clause involves:

  •          Gathering information and determining the relevant factors
  •          Analysing the resulting effects to identify potential risks and opportunities
  •          Responding to these effects using the management system


Things to consider

There’s no right way to do this, but it’s critical that the approach employed adds value and is appropriate for the nature, scale and complexity of the organisation’s activities.  However, some factors may be common across many organisations and can be used as a starting point.  It’s useful to refer to the guidance in the ISO standard to help with this.  The table below provides some examples of such factors which may be common:


Internal Factors

External Factors



Skills gaps

New Competitors

Older IT infrastructure

Value of the pound

Record keeping consistency

Government Policy

Standard of the work environment

Global agreements (e.g. climate change)


The Application of ‘Context’ in a management system

Identifying these factors is only the beginning – the organisation must now use this information to identify risks and opportunities, and put suitable actions into place to address or control them.


Other parts of the management system must be used to facilitate this, such as management review, risk assessment, corrective actions, monitoring / KPIs and communication, to mention but a few.


It’s also critical that the context of the organisation is monitored and updated regularly to ensure the accuracy and effectiveness of the information and subsequent responses.


If you are thinking of setting up an ISO management system and would like support or guidance with this please contact a member of the SSG team who will be glad to assist you.


Source: Chris Prior, SSG

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