Standards are documented agreements containing technical specifications or other precise criteria to be used consistently as rules, guidelines or definitions, to ensure that materials, products, processes and services are fit for their purpose (FAO).
Certification is a procedure by which a third party gives written assurance that a product, process or service is in conformity with certain standards. Certification can be seen as a form of communication along the supply chain. The certificate demonstrates to the buyer that the supplier complies with certain standards, which might be more convincing than if the supplier itself provided the assurance (FAO).
A certification label is a label or symbol indicating that compliance with standards has been verified. The use of the label is usually controlled by the standard-setting body. Where certification bodies certify against their own specific standards, the label can be owned by the certification body (FAO).
Third party verification
Certification is always done by a third party. The verification is done and the assurance is provided by a party without direct interest in the economic relationship between the supplier and buyer. An internal control is a first-party verification. When a buyer verifies if the supplier adheres to a standard, it is a second-party verification (FAO).
Depending on the standard, both companies and products can be certified. Product certification ensures that products embed certain qualities. In the case of textiles and apparel, qualities can refer to tear strength of the fabric, restriction of harmful chemicals in the product or an organic composition. It is therefore the product itself that is certified.
Depending on the standard, both the company itself as well as their products can be certified. Company certification relates to the management systems in companies, facilities and organisations. This type of certification ensures proper working processes and can refer to everything from energy management systems and corporate governance to labour conditions for workers.
Chain of custody
Chain of custody (CoC) verifies the path from the input material to the final product, and gives assurance that fiber content claims (like “organically grown” or “recycled”) are accurate. By having a product certified to a voluntary third-party content claim standard, you will have the assurance that every step in the supply chain has taken all the necessary measures to track the raw material as it moves from the source to the final product (TextileExchange).
An ISO standard is a standard developed and issued by the International Standard Organisation. Since the organisation’s standards are internationally recognized, they are oftentimes used as reference points. Their standards cover a wide range of activities such as specifications of products, services and management systems.
Type I (ISO 14024) – a voluntary, multiple-criteria based, third party programme that awards a license that authorises the use of environmental labels on products indicating overall environmental preferability of a product within a particular product category based on life cycle considerations.
Type II (ISO 14021) – self-declared environmental claims that are made, without independent third party certification, by manufacturers, importers, distributors, retailers or anyone else likely to benefit from such a claim. The ISO standard lists several requirements for self-declared environmental claims. Among these are accuracy, possibilities for verification and consideration of relevant environmental aspects. The standard specifies that unwarranted claims such as vague or non-specific claims (“eco-friendly”, “green”, “non polluting”…) should be avoided.
Type III (ISO 14025) – voluntary programmes that provide quantified environmental data of a product, under pre-set categories of parameters set by a qualified third party and based on life cycle assessment, and verified by that or another qualified third party.
Type I-like – like a Type 1 standard, yet only focuses on a single issue (ec.europa.eu).
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