Steering Committee Meeting
The Steering Committee meeting on July 9 was well-attended and was a first for me to participate in a meeting in real time with members from British Columbia to Sydney Australia – special thanks to Laura Terrall of Rainforest Alliance for starting at 6am and Maylynn Nunn of Marine Stewardship Council for staring at 11pm. We reviewed the final draft and agreed to some minor amendments. The addition of six principles of assurance in the current draft was unanimously supported by committee members and we received agreement to proceed to a final draft for submission to the ISEAL Board.
I continue to be impressed with the level of engagement in the Assurance Code project even after 18 months of consultation. The Assurance Code Committee members are still very active – for example Peter Feilberg of NEPCon recently offering prescient comments:
“I see a major risk in adding “independent” bodies between the scheme owner and the people on the field. For each link (body) added – there a risk that the scheme loses control of how the requirements are enforced on the ground and loses insight in the scheme’s performance in delivering the expected output (fulfillment of the objective of the scheme). In short – the scheme owner should know if the requirements are followed and working.
When the scheme uses own staff to verify compliance in the field there is a direct control over the enforcement of the scheme requirements and the scheme has first-hand knowledge to evaluate if the scheme requirements are efficient in fulfilling the objective of the scheme. When adding links between the scheme owner and the auditor this knowledge easily gets diluted For some schemes – such as FSC – the chain can be very long and complex:
FSC (scheme owner) => ASI (accreditation body) => CB => CB Sub-contractor => Auditor => Group Manager => Forest Management Enterprise”
And from Angela Tejada of UTZ Certified:
"Quality of assurance is more dependent on rigour of scrutiny and incentives to conform than on independence"
“This is new, I am familiar with independent scrutiny but not with rigour of scrutiny.
Assuming rigour of scrutiny is personal attributes and competence, independence is less of an issue. The challenge is – as we have largely discussed – ensuring auditor competence is a daunting task and requires significant resources if we are talking on a large scale.
From the field (producer perspective), they actually appreciate an independent person does the evaluation – it gives them assurance they are being treated on a fair way. This is important in countries where favouritism happens in different levels, even governmental.”
We are making some minor revisions to the Assurance Code following from the Steering Committee meeting on July 9th. Committee members will have 1 week to review the final draft, after which it will be prepared for submission to the ISEAL Board of Directors. At that time we will make the final draft publicly available.