Regional frameworks, like the Caribbean Cooperation for Accreditation that links the services of quality professionals with the businesses that really need their assistance to become accredited or certified, can go a long way toward achieving aspects of sustainability in CARICOM.
This is the view of Technical Officer, Accreditation and Conformity Assessment with the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards & Quality (CROSQ), Mr. Stephen Farquharson.
Mr. Farquharson was speaking on the eve of World Accreditation Day that is celebrated across the globe on June 9 annually. With this year’s theme focusing on how accreditation supports the implementation of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the accreditation expert highlighted the CCA Scheme and how it had assisted near 60 entities around the region towards internationally recognised accreditation and certification.
“The Caribbean Cooperation for Accreditation (CCA), a cooperative framework involving accreditation bodies and quality professionals to deliver accreditation services desperately needed by our region at competitive prices, has been able to support and/or direct many conformity assessment bodies (CABs) towards accreditation. This process has been ably assisted by accreditation personnel within national standards bodies, known as National Accreditation Focal Points, or NAFPs. Thus far, the CCA has been responsible for the over 56 accredited or otherwise internationally-recognised CABs across the region. These CABs are the agencies which provide testing, inspection and certification of goods and services manufactured or developed in our respective countries,” he said.
Accreditation is the process whereby a third-party verifies that a testing, inspection or certification entity has demonstrated competence and impartiality in carrying out specific quality assessment tasks. Certification, on the other hand, is the third-party attestation that products, services, processes, management systems and people conform to established standards.
The global pandemic, the regional expert noted, had tested CARICOM’s resolve to continue building the necessary accreditation framework, to increase the number of entities accredited and also to improve the region’s sustainability index through shoring up these support agencies. As such, he added, the 17 SDS would not be achievable without such systems that were deemed trustworthy through a process of verification and validation.
Speaking of the work still being done, Mr. Farquharson highlighted: “Over the next few months, CROSQ will continue working with the United Nations Forum on Sustainability Standards to dimension and build-out a programme that will ultimately evolve the region’s Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS) framework into a mature system.
“This VSS framework will include the complete quality ecosystem, including standards, metrology, conformity assessment and accreditation, alongside quality promotions to develop greater awareness. It is intended that through this accredited process, there will be increased trade, increased employment, and hence reduced Poverty, Inequality and Hunger; improved Well-being, Education, Sanitation, Economic Growth, Affordable and Clean Energy, Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, and Gender Equality among other things.”
The sustainability framework began with a feasibility study of the CARICOM region by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, working alongside CROSQ to determine the opportunities for developing such avenues to boost the region’s ability to trade within Europe. CROSQ is now looking at how such a system could be put in place, perhaps using a regional product or service certification scheme, that will take into consideration the sustainability aspects of the value chain for how the product or service is developed. Over time that this sustainability programme could then be extended to other products and even services.
He added that other projects were also being implemented now, which will also assist the region’s accreditation trajectory.
“Already with the support of the 11th European Development Fund, Technical Barriers to Trade Programme, we are advancing five CABs and two calibration laboratories towards this process of accreditation that will certainly help in the region’s progress towards Goal 9 for building resilient industry and infrastructure, while encouraging innovation. Securing these accreditations will add another layer of safety and confidence within our trading sectors, which will further contribute to Goal 12 for ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns, when industry and producers have access to readily available measurement, testing, inspection and certification services,” Mr. Farquharson noted.