||It has been suggested that this article be merged into FLO-CERT. (Discuss) Proposed since July 2013.|
|Rudiger Meyer, Managing Director; Nigel H Croft, Chairman of the Supervisory Board|
|Products||Audit, Certification, Trade Audit|
FLO-CERT is the inspection and certification body for labelled Fairtrade. It is one of the two organizations which resulted from the January 2004 split of Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International.
In order to guarantee the credibility of the Fairtrade Certification Mark, FLO-CERT operates an independent, transparent and worldwide consistent certification system that follows the requirements of ISO 65, the international quality norm for certification bodies.
FLO-CERT ensures that producers and traders comply with the FLO International Fairtrade Standards, that traders pay the Fairtrade Premium to producers and that producers invest the benefits received through Fairtrade in their development.
FLO-CERT works with a network of 120 independent inspectors that yearly visit all organizations (producers and traders) and report back to FLO-CERT. The audit methodology is tailor-made for the evaluation of the Fairtrade Standards. The inspectors are locally based (in the country itself or neighbouring country) and familiar with the local culture, law and language. The time the inspector spends on the ground depends on the size of the producer organization, the complexity of the producer organization and the number of certified products they are seeking to sell. A full Fairtrade inspection can take from 4.5 days for a small producer organisation, up to six or seven weeks for the largest co-operative unions. No producer organization can become certified without an initial physical inspection. FLO-CERT operates a group certification model, which includes the inspection of the central organization and random checks of a representative sample of individual farmers. The size of the sample is normally based on a square root approach, which is standard practice in group certification. Renewal of the certificate is based on an annual physical inspection. In exceptional circumstances, where they have demonstrated a very good compliance record over the previous years, producer organisations may qualify for a desk top review as part of a three-year inspection cycle. This can lead to valuable cost savings for the certified producers. The cost of the certification is based on the number of working days required for inspection of the producer group; it is not based on the volumes of products sold to the Fairtrade market. Following an inspection, a report is sent to FLO-CERT for evaluation. The evaluator submits a recommendation to the Managers of FLO-CERT whether this producer should be certified. The final certification decisions are taken by the Director. A further quality control takes place every two months when the external Certification Committee reviews the decisions of FLO-CERT and provides additional guidance.
FLO-CERT has also developed a trade auditing system to monitor traders compliance with the FLO International Fairtrade Standards and that traders pay the Fairtrade Premium to producers. The system was created to check that every Fairtrade labelled product sold to a consumer has indeed been produced by a certified producer organization which has been paid the Fairtrade price. A network of inspectors conduct trade certification, supported by staff at FLO-CERT headquarters in Bonn. Similarly to producer certification, trade certification decisions are taken by a different person from the one who evaluated the organisation and wrote the inspection report. An independent Certification Committee meets every two months to advise FLO-CERT on certification decisions and policies and to maintain an overview of decision making. It comprises a balance of key stakeholders such as certified operators, independent certification experts and consumer representation. The most complex cases are sent to this committee for evaluation.
Fairtrade licensees (companies that have license contracts to use a Fairtrade label) are also subjected to auditing, although this has until now been conducted by National Fairtrade labelling initiatives, with the exception of licensees in France, Spain and Germany which are audited by FLO-CERT.
ISO 65 Accreditation
The international Fairtrade certification system received ISO accreditation in October 2007, a worldwide first for any social certification system. ISO 65 accreditation means:
- Independence: a certification body must be independent of any external pressure being able to influence a certification decision.
- Transparency: the evaluation and certification processes must be transparent and explained to all parties before inspection.
- Quality: certification decisions can only be consistent and suitable if there are proper internal control mechanisms. The existence of a quality control system, for example, supported by regular internal audits, is essential to identify problems and continuously improve service.
- Equality: all producers must be treated equally.