A pioneer in organic farming certification since 1991, Ecocert is now recognized worldwide for its certification services in sustainable practices in a wide range of fields (agriculture, cosmetics, textiles, wood, etc.).

During the certification process, our teams evaluate and ensure the compliance of our customers' activities with specifications (labels). To find out more, q uel quelques questions à Alizée, our Group Audit Manager!

Hi Alizée, can you explain the Organic Agriculture certification process?

"Of course! Certification is a voluntary process that comes directly from the producer or company, in order to promote of commitments to consumers. Several people are involved in the certification process, which comprises different stages. We follow a strict and always impartial procedure:

  • Step 1: Contractualization

To obtain certification, the customer must enter into a contractual agreement with Ecocert. A sales development officer registers the incoming contact's request, collects some information about the prospect's activity, and draws up a quotation. Once accepted, the prospect officially joins the Ecocert community!

  • Step 2: The audit

If this is the first time for the customer, we carry out an initial audit. This is an in-depth audit, during which the auditor learns in detail about the activity and checks a conformity of practices with the specifications of the chosen label.

Preparation is paramount . Before going on site, the auditor must gather information on the operator (field of activity, audit framework, points of vigilance...) from a range of documents and external sources. The auditor must analyze and integrate this information to gain a better understanding of the producer's/company's activity.

The points of verification during the audit are varied, depending on the customer's profile: crop and livestock plots, inputs, processing systems, storage facilities, raw materials, product recipes, administrative and commercial documents, labels, etc.

The auditor goes out into the field to verify the good practices implemented by the customer. In general, but this varies from label to label, an audit is then carried out every year.

Good to know! All Ecocert auditors receive in-depth training . First and foremost, they are trained in their profession : know how to ask questions, investigate, ensure contact and follow-up with customers... but also in the requirements of the label they will be auditing. This means that they receive training not only in their profession, but also in a specific field of expertise (agriculture, agri-food, cosmetics, textiles, etc.).

  • Step 3: review and decision

After the audit has been carried out, the certification officer reviews all the information in the audit report, checking for completeness and conformity. Based on the criteria set out in the regulations or the label, and taking into account all the information provided by the auditor, the decision-maker decides whether or not to issue the certificate.

Finally, the Customer Relations Manager acts as a coordinator between all the parties involved and the customer himself. He/she acts as a link and responds to the various requests:

Request for certification of other products , labeling, follow-up of corrective actions to be implemented...

Is the audit a one-off?

No, the certification process is a cycle. In most cases, once certification has been obtained by the customer, an annual renewal is planned. Every year, therefore, a new certification and decision-making process is initiated.

The renewal audit can also be supplemented by additional actions, known as surveillance. To guarantee customer compliance over the long term, and not just on the day of their audit , (for which they have time to prepare), Ecocert can carry out unannounced audits.

In order to assess risks, samples may also be taken from crops or products. For example, if customers are handling high-voltage products with limited availability or increased risk, or have already received non-compliances , controls may need to be stepped up.

Several clues lead a certification body to increase surveillance, or set up additional audits.

You mentioned non-conformity. Can you tell us more about it?

There are several types of non-conformity: minor or major. The auditor's job is to verify requirements against a set of specifications. The customer may have irreproachable practices, or may have more or less significant non-conformities in relation to the rules. This will have an impact on the final decision as to whether or not to award certification to the customer, based on the customer's practices as a whole.

How are samples processed and analyzed?

The regulatory aspect is very important. For example, the European Organic Regulation has very precise requirements that apply to everyone. All committed operators must take sufficient precautions to ensure that organic products are not contaminated by unauthorized substances.

For this reason, an annual sampling plan is drawn up by Ecocert. It is based on data from the previous year (fraud history, national recommendations, activities deemed to be at risk, etc.), but also on the operator and the field audit. Indeed, the auditor, during his visit, may express doubts about the producer's good practices, and the analysis of the product may complete his judgment on the risk situation.

When a sample is taken, we send it to a partner laboratory accredited and approved by our French authority (INAO). The laboratory then sends us the results, and it's up to our Analysis Managers to take charge of the investigation and discuss it with the customer. take charge of the investigation and discuss it with the customer. The Analysis Department has the skills not only to interpret the results, but also to link the various pieces of information on the case in question (audit report, exchanges with the auditor, exchanges with the certification officer). The result of the analysis is not an end in itself, it completes a global vision and must be accompanied by multiple discussions to determine whether there is indeed mismanagement in organic production.

Once all the information is available, the Analysis Project Manager can give an opinion, which will be forwarded to the Certification Department, which will decide whether or not to downgrade the product, if the risk is proven.

Finally, do you have a key figure to share with us?

As you can see, the certification process is a rigorous and demanding stage, where the conformity of a product or service is impartially assessed, according to strict requirements specified in a set of specifications, . This is what defines us as a certification body: our competence, independence and impartiality during our so-called third-party audits.

"For more than 32 years, we have been promoting companies committed to sustainability. Ecocert means 300,000 audits a year, and 1,200 auditors worldwide!"

Behind the scenes: the audit
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