Over 100 participants attended a virtual workshop organised by ASC last week to help them carry out remote audits in areas affected by Coronavirus travel restrictions.
ASC certification requires regular surveillance audits to ensure ongoing compliance with the ASC standards, and these are usually carried out by teams of independent auditors in person. In response to the worldwide travel restrictions, ASC published an updated audit policy to help farms and auditors – providing some flexibility by allowing some audits to be carried out remotely.
This represented a new challenge as remote auditing requires new processes, so ASC organised the remote workshop to help set out good practice. The workshop was delivered by Accreditation Services International (ASI) – they are responsible for accrediting certification bodies so are well placed to provide guidance on best practice.
“We started updating our certification requirements as soon as possible when it became clear that travel restrictions would make in-person audits difficult or impossible for several months,” said Daniela Ruz, ASC Training and CABs Account Manager. “But we also wanted to make sure auditors had the support they needed to adapt to the new requirements.
“One of the strengths of the ASC programme is that it is robustly and consistently applied by independent auditors, so we take support and guidance to auditors very seriously. We’re glad we were able to support so many in one session, and provide a recording of the training for those who couldn’t attend.”
The session was attended by auditors of the ASC farm standards, MSC standards, and the Chain of Custody standard – which ensures certified seafood is handled and segregated properly along the supply chain. It was recorded and shared with certification bodies allowing even more to benefit from the training.
The experience will have further long-term benefits, as it will inform an ASC project already underway to explore the potential for some audits to be carried out remotely – reducing unnecessary travel and environmental impacts without reducing the stringency of the standard.
“A public consultation on the more permanent proposals for remote auditing is due in the autumn of this year, and this unexpected situation is a chance to see how it might work in practice and learn from the experience,” said Daniela.
ASC Programme Assurance staff will observe the remote audits to understand the challenges and good practices that can be used when developing certification requirements. Further training may also be organised if necessary, and ASC is closely monitoring the global situation for impacts on certified producers, auditors, and other stakeholders.