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What does context of the organisation mean and what is the purpose of it?

Updated: Feb 5, 2021

In this video blog, Peter Rogers from Mango Global discusses Context of the Organisation as part of the Compliance Conversation series.

We have gathered compliance consultants from around the world to give some insights into the ISO requirement, clause 4 "Context of the Organisation".

The question we answer in this conversation is "What is the meaning of Context of the Organisation and what is it's purpose?"

Check out the video here:

Mark, Business Basics, Australia

Context of the organisation is the driving force behind it, the why, as opposed to the what.

It identifies what the organisation is trying to achieve, where it's trying to go, and sets the roadmap for the plan and everything else hangs off it,

  • understanding the issues that are going to impact on achieving that goal

    • and setting your actions around that

It should identify the reasons why you're undertaking certifications, why you are undertaking this process, because if the context the organisation doesn't require you to maintain some sort of certification, the question is, what's the point?

Chris, FQM, United Kingdom

One of the key things I say to customers and clients, when they ask that type of question is, to make it quite simple.

  • What is it that you do as an organisation, as a business unit?

    • Understand what your context is in terms of what you do within those four walls, within that organisation.

And also, very importantly,

  • Understand how other influencing factors can impact on your business and what you do.

    • Changes and legal requirements, etc.

In terms of how an organisation presents that, I think they have a multitude of ways of doing it, but I go back to the simple term, don't read into the terminology ‘context’, just simply explain what it is that you do as a business.

Michael, Momentum Ergonomics and Safety, Australia

The context is something that I think, was introduced in 2015. It's something that a lot of businesses sort of do, but they don't really get that they do.

It's all about thinking about where your organisation fits,

  • what are the external influences that are going to impact on your organisation?

as well as the

  • internal factors which might have both a risk or an opportunity,

for example,

  • COVID,

    • local events,

    • local economics

those sorts of things that might potentially have an impact on your system.

It's putting those all into a big picture and think about where you sit in that space.

Ben, Total Management and Training, Australia

In a nutshell, for me, the context of the organisation is all the external and internal influences that affect it, it's how they present themselves.

Now, these things can be all sorts of things,

  • they can be the products,

    • how complex they are that you make,

  • they can be policies and procedures that you've got already in place

  • they can be political,

  • they can be legislative,

they can be all those things that actually provide influence to the business and need to be taken into account.

Nicholas, SRM, South Africa

When we talk about the context of the organisation, we need to understand what has influenced the businesses to really understand the business. This sets the framework for the development of the management system. If we really are going to understand risks and opportunities to the business, we need to understand where it's come from, historically, what are the legacy issues?

  • What influences the business historically?

    • What is the current situation or the current state of affairs?

    • And also, where is it going in the future?

    • What are the expansion opportunities?

Because all of those are going to influence the business.

On top of that, we're asked to look at the internal and external issues. Now, why those are so important is that, if we're going to do an effective risk assessment, if we're going to develop effective processes, we need to understand what some of the exposures are inside and outside of the business.

From an external perspective, we need to consider

  • the region,

    • the politics,

    • the culture,

    • the culture outside of the business,

    • where they're located.

Internally, we need to have a look at all their;

  • activities,

    • products,

    • services,

    • substances,

    • plant and equipment.

Because we need to understand comprehensively, what is involved in this business, to be able to develop a management system.

John, Many Caps, New Zealand

When ISO is talking about understanding the context of the organisation, it says you need to understand the issues and the risks that could impact your business and your QMS both inside and outside the organisation.

You need to do that in both a positive and a negative way.

Not all risks are negative, some risks are positive. If you win a new order, the risk is

  • you're going to need more staff,

    • you're going to need more equipment,

    • you’re going to need more materials.

You need to understand those risks and start thinking about things like that.

Ideally, you want to also think about how you're going to mitigate or prevent the risks impacting your QMS and of course, your business.

You need to think about both internal and external factors.


  • What things are going to impact the customer experience

    • What things are going to impact customer satisfaction.

    • Your ability to deliver the product from an external point of view,

      • and that might be your regulatory bodies

      • might be market conditions,

      • it could be technology,

      • it could be raw material supply, or

      • it could be people.


  • Will we still be achieving those QMS objectives?

    • What's going to limit your growth?

      • could be something to do with the government

      • it could be relationships

      • could be key people in your organisation, that are getting to retirement age or could be looking at leaving,

All those things need to be considered to really understand context of your organisation. It's really about understanding what forces are acting upon your business.

Jodie, Penarth, United Kingdom

The standards call for you to define the context.

What they're looking for is for you to define

  1. who you are,

    1. what you do,

    2. where you do it,

    3. how you do it.

For instance,

  1. Mango Limited is a company

    1. that specializes in the design, development and provision of cloud-based compliance software.

    2. The company is based in New Zealand, servicing English speaking countries around the globe, and

    3. working through a network of partners.


  1. You should clearly define Who the organisation is, What the organisation does, Where the business is carried out and How the business is carried out.

  2. Always consider what external and internal influences might impact the organisation.

  3. It is setting a roadmap for what the organisation is trying to achieve and where it is hoping to go.

  4. Have a good understanding on what forces have an impact on your business.

Don't forget to click on to the next link in the series -

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