Thank you to all those who participated in GFSI’s first webinar of 2021! If you were not able to make the live session, we invite you to read the summary below or watch the recording.
We invite you to join GFSI leadership on 25th March, the third day of the virtual GFSI Conference, for our #askGFSI session. This session will be another opportunity to hear directly from GFSI, ask questions and raise your top-of-mind issues.
GFSI will host further webinars throughout the year as part of our committment to delivering open, transparent and frequent interaction and communication with our stakeholder community globally. Please watch this space and be sure you are signed up to receive updates on upcoming webinars.
Thursday 21st January: 12:00pm – 1:00pm CEST.
GFSI Director Erica Sheward began the session with a refresher on GFSI’s strategic objectives and providing context to understand what the Race to the Top is about. She discussed the challenges that GFSI faced surrounding trust, confidence, accessibility and support of the industry. Joined by stakeholders, the team developed new initiatives to deliver evidential evidence of improvements in creating a more transparent environment. She then reviewed the three strategic priorities that include harmonisation and benchmarking, engagement in private-public partnerships, and capability building in food safety. Erica then introduced Marie-Claude Quentin, GFSI’s Senior Technical Manager, to provide an overview of the Race to the Top features.
Marie-Claude first outlined the four features of the Race to the Top that had been launched a year ago in Seattle. The first feature is focused on creating benchmarking requirements for food safety auditor training and Continuing Development Programmes. The first version of the benchmarking requirements will be up for consultation at the end of March.
The second feature looks at how GFSI oversees certification programme owners once they are recognised. Marie-Claude reported than annual monitoring activities are carried out to ensure that the certificate owners continuously align with the benchmarking requirements. The goal is to change the current dynamic and give the CPOs more responsibility to manage their own monitoring and demonstrate improvements. Key performance indicators of this benchmarking have already been defined and will be tested over the coming quarter.
The third feature looks at how certification bodies are monitored. She explained that GFSI has no oversight over the certification bodies but stressed the importance of the quality of the work these organisations deliver. Certification bodies are monitored regularly by both accreditation bodies and certification programme owners. Marie-Claude has been working in partnership with the International Accreditation Forum to agree Key Performance Indicators for CB performance that ABs and CPOs may all report against and share to better inform their respective monitoring of CBs. The KPIs will be submitted for consultation to the GFSI community once they have been approved by IAF and GFSI’s internal governance.
The fourth feature is the establishment of a certification platform. Marie-Claude explained that there is an apparent need from stakeholders for a single source of information to easily identify whether a site is certified against a GFSI-recognised programme. Besides, there has been an increase of certification fraud in recent years which can lead to misleading situations in the industry and create mistrust in certification. GFSI’s search for the right partner to establish their certification platform has been ongoing over the past 10 months. Marie- Claude believes that GFSI will be able to demonstrate this new system at the upcoming GFSI Conference.
Erica then made a reflection on GFSI in 2020. GFSI had a unique opportunity to focus on ongoing projects with more time and dedication than ever before. One major difference is that the team would usually meet with regulators once a year at the GFSI Conference. There is now an ongoing dialogue to ensure trust and confidence in the regulator community. Erica then introduced Anne Gerardi, Senior Manager, who leads the GFSI work around public- private partnerships.
Anne first gave some history of how GFSI works with regulators. The G2B platform was first developed five years ago in an effort to strengthen the relationship with regulators. The original structure has been modified and now exists as a G2B organising committee made of regulators and IGOs. There are now 12 regulatory agencies involved in this committee since this past summer. Together with the GFSI team, they identify priorities, common interests, and the direction of agenda. Anne then began to identify the three G2B workstreams.
The first workstream is the use of communication and information technologies in third-party audits and inspections. This workstream works to identify common trends and challenges and determine how new technologies are used to perform inspection. They want to make sure there is an alignment in the future on that aspect of Race to the Top as well as the Covid-19 response. Anne announced that there will be a dedicated seminar in March where the outcomes and upcoming steps will be shared.
The second workstream is about data sharing and the online database which will be a future operation of the Race to the Top. They discuss how this database could be used and what kind of information should be part of the database.
The third workstream is a discussion with the public side to define the needs of regulatory agencies. Anne discussed the need to strengthen private and public collaboration by looking at the challenges. There will also be a seminar on this topic in March.
Erica then thanked Anne for the update while linking the G2B agenda to the progress of the Global Markets Programme. This programme supports small companies or companies in developing regions in their journey to certification. Erica revealed the feedback the programme received through the Race to the Top consultation. Survey results showed that the programme was in need of some changes and would face challenges ahead. A stakeholder consultation will be published to relay the feedback and ask for further suggestions for improvement.
Anne followed up by sharing the six sections of the public consultation based on the outcomes of the survey. The sections include: what should be the new basis for the Global Markets Programme, how to differentiate the Global Markets Programme from GFSI certification, a discussion on the technical aspect of the programme and potential new scopes, a discussion around how to shape the governance of the programme, the integrity of the programme and building trust, and how to work better and clarify the roles between GFSI and the Global Markets delivery partners.
Erica then took a moment to touch on the GFSI Conference. Despite the tremendous success of the in-person conference, the inevitable decision has to be made to go virtual. Erica believes the conference will continue to hold its value and even sees an opportunity in reaching a wider audience of stakeholders.
The session concluded with a Q&A segment with questions sent in by participants.