ISO 90001 is a set of International Standards for management and verification of good quality management practices. ISO is an International Organization that certifies that businesses, government organizations and social entities meet certain common standards. The name ISO was taken from the Greek 'isos" meaning "equal", and is used without alteration in every language, in all countries which participate.
ISO began in 1946, in an attempt to provide a democratic way of setting common standards for International Businesses. Since 1947 ISO has published over 17500 standards for areas ranging from agriculture to technology.
ISO 9000 series
ISO 9000 is a 'family' of standards that relate to quality management systems. Companies can apply for certification. The certification process includes an external audit by ISO. If a company passes the audit they are allowed to advertise themselves as "ISO 9001 certified".
What does it mean?
ISO 9001 is a certification that certain formal processes are being used within a company for their management of Quality Control. This includes monitoring processes, maintaining complete and accurate records, checking for defective output, taking action to correct defects, and continual internal reviews for effectiveness.
This is the full title of the current ISO dealing with Quality Management and indicates an update to the standards of previous ISO 9000s.
Why companies want it
Many companies view ISO 9001 certification as a two-fold business tool. One application is to provide a set of benchmarks by which the company can compare itself to its competitors. The second is as a marketing tool, to assure clients and customers that they can trust the Quality Control processes which are being implemented.