ASC has published an updated audit policy to provide some flexibility to auditors and farms during the restrictions caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
In response to the outbreak, travel has been restricted in many countries and regions around the world. This of course can have an impact on the ability of Conformity Assessment Bodies (CABs) to carry out audits, which are required at certified farms on an annual basis.
Tackling the pandemic is top priority, and ASC wants to support farms and CABs as they adapt to the restrictions caused by the outbreak, or implemented to ensure the health and safety of staff. The publication of the new policy aims to provide some flexibility by allowing where possible for audits to be postponed or conducted remotely, while ensuring that ASC’s stringent requirements continue to be robustly applied.
The new policy replaces earlier interim guidance issued to CABs. The policy is normative and it applies to audits in countries where restrictions are in place and is applicable until 30 September – but this date could change based on further developments, and ASC will continue to monitor the situation.
The policy sets out various scenarios including surveillance audits (which must be carried out on an annual basis throughout a farm’s certification) as well as re-certification audits and initial audits. In some cases, audits may be carried out remotely, or partly remotely where some, but not all, auditors are able to attend. In other cases a farm’s certification may be extended if it is not possible to carry out a re-certification audit within the required timeframe. Further details on these scenarios, the possible options, and the requirements for these options, can be found in the full policy document.
ASC will continue to monitor the impact of the global pandemic on farms, auditors, and the certification process, and do all it can to help these stakeholders while upholding the stringent standards required of all ASC certified farms.
ASC has taken numerous steps to help tackle the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak and protect staff and stakeholders. All ASC international travel and sponsored events attracting international travellers have been cancelled until at least the end of May. To support the various national requirements to limit the spread of illness ASC staff around the world are working from home, but remain fully engaged and reachable by email or mobile device.