The Netherlands has countless organizations that conduct market surveillance in one way or another. Think of laboratories that test products. Or inspection companies that check whether materials and installations meet the safety requirements specified. But also certification bodies, which assess whether companies deserve a certain certificate. These are all organizations that look at companies, processes and products with an impartial view and also assess them. Supervisors, in other words.
Supervision of supervisors
But who supervises the supervisors? That is why accreditation bodies were created. European laws and regulations stipulate that each country must have one accreditation body. In the Netherlands, this is the Dutch Accreditation Council (RvA). “We monitor (among other things) the independence, competence and consistency of market supervisors,” explains Casper van Erp, lead assessor at the RvA. “Do they do the same thing for every company? Do they do it independently? Do they account for it? And can everyone appeal to the conclusions they draw? If everything is in order, the RvA issues an accreditation, for example, to a certification body,” he continues.
“That shows that the body in question meets the requirements and is allowed to certify for a certain scope”
Accreditation and the CO2-Performance Ladder
The RvA therefore also plays an important role for the CO2-Performance Ladder. After all, it accredits the institutions that award certificates on the Ladder. The Foundation for Climate Friendly Procurement and Business (SKAO in Dutch, the manager and owner of the Ladder) and the RvA therefore worked closely together from the beginning. “It was a logical choice by SKAO to outsource supervision of certifying bodies to the RvA,” said Van Erp. “We can do that more efficiently and effectively because we are used to it and have a lot of experience with it.”
The RvA also indirectly accredited the norm behind the CO2-Performance Ladder, he continues, “We accredit companies that certify to a certain standard. But in order to do that, we must first assess whether the standard in question is suitable for certification.”
Setting the bar equally high for everyone
In other words, the RvA took a critical look at the CO2-Performance Ladder. But what requirements must such a standard meet? According to Van Erp, two things are important: Is the standard clear? And is it interpreted in a similar way by everyone? There should be no confusion or room for personal interpretation at all.”
“The criteria that companies have to meet must be crystal clear. The bar must be exactly the same height for everyone”
“That can be quite difficult,” he continues. “So too with the CO2-Performance Ladder. For example, when is a company ambitious in terms of sustainability? How do you define that? SKAO handled that very carefully.”
Accreditation across the border
The CO2 Performance Ladder is poised to expand to more countries. What does that mean in terms of accreditation? Will it be different in each country? “Not in principle,” says Van Erp. “All accreditation bodies in Europe are members of the European co-operation for Accreditation (EA) and have to meet the same standards and requirements. We also check and assess each other on a regular basis, so in principle companies within the EU are accredited in the same way everywhere.”
In other words, if France were to implement the CO2 Performance Ladder, the same steps would be taken there in terms of accreditation as in the Netherlands. But accreditation beyond European borders will also proceed in much the same way, Van Erp expects. Indeed, accreditation bodies worldwide are members of the International Accreditation Forum. “In any case, there will be many similarities,” he said.
Van Erp also considers it not unlikely that at some point the CO2 Performance Ladder will be accepted by accreditation bodies at the European or even international level. “There are procedures for that and there are already examples of standards and schemes accepted at that level. Then they are applicable in new countries at once.”
According to Van Erp, accreditation is an indispensable part of the Ladder’s success, both in the Netherlands and internationally. Indeed, it is a means of increasing confidence in companies, services and products.
“More and more logos, trademarks and certificates show how well companies are doing in certain areas. But because of that quantity, there is a danger that such labels will no longer be taken seriously,” he says. “Accreditation can prevent that.”
“We check the companies behind them on their independence, competence and consistency, so that we can say: you can trust that”