Establishing the central role of conformity assessment in digital supply chains

Industry News February 5, 2024
Establishing the central role of conformity assessment in digital supply chains
NATA team

The theme for World Accreditation Day 2024 is Accreditation: Empowering Tomorrow and Shaping the Future.  IAF and ILAC will explore how accreditation enables the development of innovative technologies, and how it can facilitate the integration and adoption of these technologies, particularly in industries and supply chains where precision, safety and quality are critical.  We will also highlight how accreditation supports sustainability, helping businesses and consumers make informed choices.   

In support of this, NATA has submitted a case study Establishing the central role of conformity assessment in digital supply chains, which may be summarised as follows: 

As incentives increase for organisations to demonstrate the validity of claims regarding environmental/social/governance (ESG) attributes for products/services, so too will the incentives increase for falsifying such attributes.  

Based on initial work undertaken during 2021-22 by the Australian accreditation body, NATA, an international work program commenced mid-2022 under the auspices of the United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT).  This UN/CEFACT activity involves development of an electronic protocol – the Digital Product Conformity Certificate Exchange (DPCCE) protocol – which is designed to deliver digitally verifiable assurances over conformity attestations.  

A general data structure has been created for the data elements and linkages that can enhance confidence and utility in the attestations issued by conformity assessment bodies (CABs).  Specifically, the presence or absence of data elements exposed during discovery of a conformity attestation provides insights, such as verifiable connection to the physical product of interest as well as revealing the status of an issued attestation and the authority under which it was issued (typically an accreditation authority).  The protocol is seen as complementary to numerous other digitalisation initiatives within the conformity and accreditation sectors.  

The concept does not replace any of the existing governance structures within the conformity assessment community but simply proposes a means for adapting these to a digital context.  The described approach recognises the role of CABs as the valid custodians of the data they produce and their authority over any revisions to such data. At the same time, the obligation of CABs to respect and implement the confidentiality requirements of their customers remains central to the work.  

The described approach does not preclude other concurrent processes for conformity data exchange, so the adoption of this model by individual parties may occur on any timeframe without disrupting existing trade provisions.  Also, since the provision of conformity assessment data is a relatively self-contained aspect of trade, it is intended that the approach could be adopted as a modular component of any comprehensive digital trade process.   

This work is expected to be delivered for Public Review in Q1 2024 and represents an opportunity for the conformity community to consider the merits of a future digital trade environment in which conformity assessment plays a central role.