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In this episode of the GFSI Experts Series, we hear from two representatives of the International Accreditation Forum (IAF), one of GFSI’s valued partner organisations. GFSI’s recognition of IAF’s Mulilateral Recognition Arrangement (MLA) is embedded in the Benchmarking Requirements; certification bodies operating in GFSI-benchmarked certification programmes must be accredited by an accreditation body that has signed the IAF MLA.

In April 2018, GFSI and IAF formalised their long-standing relationship with an MoU that confirmed their commitment to mutual cooperation. Marie-Claude Quentin, GFSI Senior Technical Director, asked IAF Director Marcus Long and Co-Convener Skip Greenaway how they predict the two organisations will continue to work together in the future, including collaborative ways to promote the upcoming World Accreditation Day 2019. Watch their interviews on GFSI Youtube, or read the transcripts below.

Marie-Claude: Skip, can you introduce yourself and your role?

Skip Greenaway: My name is Skip Greenaway, and I’m Chairman of Eagle Certification Group. One of my exterior responsibilities is that I’m Co-Convener of the IAF Food Group with Kylie Sheehan of JAS-ANZ.

Marie-Claude: Marcus, can you introduce yourself and your role?

Marcus Long: Hi, I’m Marcus Long. I’m an IAF Director with responsibility for representing the CB Associations at IAF. I’m also the Chief Executive of IIOC, which is a trade association for global management system certification bodies.

Marie-Claude: Could you tell us a little about IAF?

Skip: IAF is an organisation of accreditation bodies that are worldwide in nature and worldwide in commitment. In addition, there are 82 members of the IAF accreditation bodies, and there are also associate members. One of the associate members is IIOC, which is a certification body association. The other two certification bodies are IQ Net as well as IAAR. We also have industry associations, aerospace as well as automotive, and food. GFSI leads the activities in IAF for the food group.

Marie-Claude: What is the IAF Food Working Group’s purpose and mandate?

Marcus: The IAF Food Working Group brings together all the key bodies that are interested in accredited certification for food. We have accreditation bodies, certification bodies and GFSI, as you mentioned; also, some of the certification programme owners are involved in the group. The idea of the group, which meets a couple of times a year and then continues its work throughout the year through LinkedIn and other tools, is to share good practice about what is going on at any one moment. The key priorities are for taking accredited certification forward. It’s a very positive group. If you look at the way the group is set up, it works on the positive model of having co-conveners, one from the accreditation community and one from the certification community, to ensure that the whole stakeholder group is involved in the decisions of taking forward the right things in the future to make it better.

Marie-Claude: GFSI recently signed an MoU with the IAF. What are the mutual benefits of this partnership?

Skip: I think the main benefit between IAF and GFSI is about the idea of food safety as a non-competitive activity around the world. We all accept that fact. The support of IAF with the MLA really adds to the oversight and the independence activity that’s necessary for consistency with the accreditation bodies as well as the certification bodies.

Marie-Claude: How will IAF and GFSI work together to make the transition period between sets of standards more efficient?

Marcus: Transitions are very key and important moments in time. They are about the implementation of a new standard, and standards have to evolve all the time. We have new demands, we have new needs, we have new opportunities that a whole variety of different stakeholders — whether regulators, business or the end consumer — need to actually benefit from. The transition processes that we go through have to be done very carefully so that we make sure that ultimately, all the certified entities are transitioned successfully. But before we get to that point, we have to transition the certification bodies; and of course, the accreditation bodies have to be transitioned themselves as well. We need to make sure that we’re working very closely with GFSI and with the programme owners so that all of those transitions can be made at a timely basis, and successfully, so that all of those different organisations can work together. In the next couple of months, we’re going to be holding a workshop on transition, with GFSI a major player in that discussion, so that we can make sure that we deliver effective and efficient transitions going forward.

Marie-Claude: What is the IAF MLA?

Skip: The MLA is a multilateral agreement that, again, is worldwide, supported and correctly done under the auspices of ISO-17011.

Marie-Claude: What are the priorities and opportunities for further cooperation between IAF and GFSI?

Marcus: We have a very young relationship between GFSI and IAF. The first thing we need to make sure of is that our priorities are aligned, so that we’re working together on a shared agenda on the key issues to deliver better accredited certification. Secondly, it will be good if we can have more of the programme owners involved in IAF. The richer range of different people we have involved in the IAF decision making processes, the better those decisions are going to be. Finally, we want to work with the new agreement between IAF and GFSI so that we get more of the programme owners actually putting their schemes into the IAF MLA. This will add an additional layer of robustness in the accredited certification scheme.

Marie-Claude: Will the GFSI-IAF partnership help to harmonise practices?

Skip: Yes. In fact, harmonisation of the accreditation practices is key to not only the IAF but also to GFSI. That’s really where we look forward to the continued relationship between IAF and GFSI: to make sure that the execution of the MLA through the scheme owners is done in a consistent and acceptable manner that matches the standard 17011.

Marie-Claude: 2019 World Accreditation Day is coming up. How does this event relate to GFSI and IAF?

Marcus: World Accreditation Day is an annual event to celebrate the value and the benefits that accreditation can deliver. Themes we’ve had in the past include supporting a safer world and supporting public policy. This year’s theme is adding value to supply chains. Supply chains are moving at a rapid pace these days, with both higher complexity and also more simplicity. We need to be continuously dynamic about how accreditation and accredited certification actually deliver for supply chains. Working with GFSI, we will look to promote the theme of adding value to supply chains. We can talk to people about IAF, about accredited certification, about the IAF MLA and about the new GFSI and IAF agreement so people can understand the real benefits that we can deliver for them.

Marie-Claude: Thank you very much, Skip, for your time today.

Skip: Thank you.

Marie-Claude: Thank you very much, Marcus.

Marcus: Thank you.

To learn more about the certification bodies that receive accreditation from IAF MLA-signatory accreditation bodies, keep an eye out for upcoming episodes of the GFSI Experts Series with CPOs like GAA, GlobalGAP and IFS. All recognise that accreditation is an important step towards providing safe food everywhere. If you agree, please join GFSI and IAF in celebrating World Accreditation Day on 9 June!

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