About ASC certification
As a member of the International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labelling (ISEAL) organisation, ASC's operations meet the requirements for credible standard setting. The ASC standards were developed in line with ISEAL's Codes of Good Practice, meeting the requirements for inclusive and transparent standard setting.
The ASC certification process reflects the organisation's values of openness, inclusiveness and transparency.
Here's how the certification process work:
- The farm agrees a contract with an independent certifier.
- The certifier works with the farm to prepare for the audit.
- The audit is publicly announced on the ASC website at least 30 days in advance to allow stakeholders to provide relevant input.
- The audit will assess both technical and social compliance, which require different skill sets. The audit team typically uses two auditors to meet the skill requirements.
- The audit assesses the farm's administration (logbooks, invoices, delivery receipts, etc.).
- The auditor verifies the operation is well run in practice through visual assessments and interviews with management and staff.
The audit team will prepare a draft report, which may raise any major or minor non-conformities that the farm needs to improve upon. Both parties then agree on a time-bound improvement plan for each issue.
When all major non-conformities have been addressed and improvement plans for any minor issues have been agreed upon, the certifier will decide if the farm complies with the ASC Standard. The draft report will be available for public consultation on the ASC website for a minimum of 10 days, allowing stakeholders to give their feedback.
The certifier will process all findings from the audit and responses from the consultation into a final audit report. This report will state whether the farm is certified or not (yet) certified.
The ASC farm certificate is issued by the certifier and valid for three years. Farms are subject to an annual 'surveillance audit' featuring a risk analysis, focusing on the farm's improvement plans and on a sample of the standard's requirements.
The ASC's social requirements include interviews with farm staff, neighbours and other relevant stakeholders to assess compliance.
Who can assess against the ASC standards?
Certifiers must meet certain performance levels and must conduct farm assessments as set out in the ASC Farm Certification and Accreditation Requirements. Auditors are also required to participate in ASC's standard specific training; including a mandatory exam to test their understanding which they must pass.
Auditors and the certification companies that employ them are independent of the ASC. A certification company is more correctly referred to as a Conformity Assessment Body (CAB), and sometimes as 'the certifier' or 'certification body'. CABs must demonstrate to another independent company (Accreditation Services International (ASI)) that they have the skills to undertake assessments. ASI is referred to as an 'accreditation body' and they 'accredit' a CAB when they have demonstrated understanding of the ASC Farm Certification and Accreditation Requirements. After accreditation, CABs will be monitored by ASI to ensure they continue to operate in line with the ASC's requirements.
Chain of custody and traceability
Once they're certified, farms can sell their products as ASC certified. To credibly make such a chain or to use the ASC logo, systems must be in place to ensure traceability. Having traceability systems in place ensures that no product mixing or substitutions can occur. Chain of Custody certification guarantees that the product was produced in compliance with ASC's credible standards for responsible aquaculture.
Certified products will be traced through the supply chain by Chain of Custody (CoC) certification. Every company that handles the product in the supply chain needs to hold a valid CoC certificate. Only then will the product be allowed to carry the ASC logo. To achieve CoC certification each company in the supply chain must meet strict requirements. Companies have the choice to be certified against one of the three versions of the Chain of Custody Standard:
- Default Version - applicable to individual or multi-site company processing or trading certified products.
- Group Version - applicable to co-operatives or franchises.
- Consumer-Facing Organisation Version - applicable to companies selling directly to final consumers such as restaurants, contract caterers, fishmongers, and retail fish counters.