n the last 15 years, GLOBALG.A.P. has grown into an international farm assurance standard with more than 135.000 certified producers. The exponential growth also means exponentially increased responsibility and complexity. Recognizing the increased risks, in 2007 the GLOBALG.A.P. Board decided to create an integrity program.
“In the beginning we had only one standard (Integrated Farm Assurance – IFA) and mainly European Certification Bodies. Now we have more than 10 standards, almost 140 Certification Bodies, and certified producers in more than 100 countries,” explains Andras Fekete, Director of Compliance.
The objective is to guarantee that each certified grower complies to the same level with the standard, regardless of the country of certification or the auditing body. The program includes a team of 8 auditors, also called “CIPRO” assessors (Certification Integrity Program Auditors), who are very experienced with the GLOBALGAP standards.
“Our two main activities consist of assessing the offices of the Certification Bodies (where we are only checking operational records and auditor qualification) and re-auditing recently certified farms on-site,” details Andras. The integrity assessment (re-audit) result is then compared with the report issued by the Certification Body. The report of the integrity assessment is evaluated by the secretariat of GLOBALGAP. “If the result is not satisfactory, it is presented to the Integrity Surveillance Committee,” confirms Andras. The committee decides of possible sanctions at different levels: first warning, second warning, yellow card, red card. The most severe sanction would be the cancellation of the contract with the Certification Body and sending the information to the local Accreditation Body. The yellow card, red card and the cancellations are publicly displayed on the GLOBALG.A.P. website.
More than 1630 assessment days made completed until todayso far
‘’We started the integrity assessment program in 2008. Every year we complete between 250 and 320 assessment days. Since 2008, we have completed 1630 assessment days! In some years we spent almost a quarter of our total budget on integrity assessments and integrity related activities,” says Andras. Each Certification Body is visited at least once every 2 years, with both an office and some producer re-assessments conducted. The assessor team is able to conduct the assessments in 11 languages (English, Spanish, German, French, Greek, Portuguese, Italian, Bulgarian, Russian, Hungarian, Chinese), for other countries, translators are used.
“Our objective is to encourage improvements rather than focusing on sanctioning the Certification Bodies, who are also seen as our most valued business partners.” In several cases however, the Integrity Surveillance Committee has had to issue sanctions. Up until now, a total of 41 First Warnings, 14 Second Warnings and 23 Yellow Cards have been issued. Additionally, 14 CBs have cancelled or voluntarily withdrawn from GLOBALG.A.P. Experience has shown the average performance of the Certification Bodies has improved significantly. “But, unfortunately we cannot stop here.” The GLOBALG.A.P. landscape is ever-changing and continuously growing, expanding to new countries, approving new Certification Bodies, adding new versions to the existing standards and developing new standards, et cetera.
Why an integrity program in parallel with accreditation?
“The truth is that our integrity program complements the work of the Accreditation Bodies,” clarifies Andras. “Our system is still based on ISO 17065 (previously ISO 65) accreditation and GLOBALG.A.P. strongly supports that concept.” The integrity program checks the GLOBALG.A.P. specific implementation issues but not the compliance of the Certification Body with ISO 17065 requirements.
“But, this is not all. In conjunction with the evaluation of the Certification Bodies, the integrity program is running several other activities: complaint management, false claim investigation, GLOBALG.A.P. brand misuse investigation, exceeded residue level investigation, and many workshops for Certification Bodies, producers, and consultants.”