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Frequently Asked Questions


Basics

Certification vs accreditation?

There is sometime confusion between ‘certification’ and ‘accreditation’. The main difference is the level in the hierarchy of the conformity system. Put simply, certification is performed by certification bodies and involves a review of information and an on-site inspection or audit of the production facility. Accreditation functions at the ‘higher’ level and is verification by […]

Why does my organisation need accreditation?

Accreditation is a demonstration of competence to perform certification against a certain standard and is part of an international mechanism for building trust between suppliers and buyers. Certification bodies may be legally required to be accredited, be required by buyers of certified products or it may be just a way of demonstrating competence to their […]

Who performs accreditation?

Accreditation is performed by government departments, by national accreditation bodies designated by government or by a number of private non-profit bodies which normally work internationally and are driven by a specific mission. The IOAS is one of the latter.

Why IOAS accreditation?

The IOAS is not a generalist like most accreditation bodies but specialises in organic and sustainable agriculture and related areas, works all over the world and is completely independent. All our personnel are specialists in these sectors so we really do know what we are talking about. As a consequence, certification bodies receive a rigorous […]

From where does IOAS get its authority?

The IOAS is not part of government so works with scheme owners that have designated it as a body competent to perform this role. Some of these scheme owners are government bodies and others are private schemes. See scheme descriptions for more details.

Who supervises the IOAS?

The document ISO/IEC 17011: ‘Conformity assessment – General requirements for accreditation bodies accrediting conformity assessment bodies’ lays down internationally agreed rules for how accreditation should be performed. The IOAS is independently assessed and recognised as compliant with this norm since 2004 by the US Department of Commerce National Institute of Standards & Technology. The recognition […]

Who owns the IOAS?

The IOAS was set up and is owned by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), a non-profit international organisation based in Germany. IFOAM promotes and lobbies for greater adoption of organic agriculture and is recognised as a standard setter by the International Standards Organisation (ISO).

How is the IOAS funded?

The IOAS is funded wholly from the services it provides. It receives no grants, donations or government funding that might undermine its independence. Fees from assessment and accreditation services make up more than 90% of its income with the remainder coming from training and other projects related to our mission.

Does IOAS accreditation provide approval worldwide?

Approval worldwide is guaranteed within the schemes that the IOAS operates because it is the scheme owner that defines the rules for recognition and acceptance. This means that a product certified by an IOAS accredited certification body in one country  will be recognised and accepted by a buyer in another country working under that same […]

Does IOAS provide accreditation to the organic schemes of NOP and JAS?

To date only the USDA can provide accreditation to the US National Organic Program (NOP) and only MAFF can provide accreditation to the Japanese Agriculture Standard. However access to these markets can be provided via equivalence agreements. For example a certification body operating outside of the USA and accredited by the IOAS to the Canada […]


Accreditation Process

How long does the IOAS accreditation process take?

This depends as much on you as a certification body as it does on us. An unhurried assessment is likely to take you 12 months from application to final decision. However if you are well prepared and willing to respond quickly on corrective actions, the process could be completed in 9 months.

How much does accreditation cost?

Our fee schedule is publicly available and is made up of a payment for work component and a payment for use based upon turnover (annual fee). The latter means that certification bodies with low turnovers, perhaps in developing countries, pay less than larger bodies in the north. This is an intentional feature of the IOAS […]

What is involved in the assessment?

Certification bodies complete an application form and then submit a ‘CB profile’ and their quality system documents using an electronic checklist. The documentation is reviewed which normally gives rise to non-conformities which must be resolved. An on-site visit takes place after which another period of corrective actions is allowed. Assuming all important issues are resolved, […]

Can I apply for more than one accreditation?

We offer an increasing number of accreditations within the organic sector and for related sectors and have developed a system whereby we can perform multiple assessments alongside each other and at minimal extra cost. You can indicate what accreditations you want to apply for on the common application form.

What about surveillance?

The IOAS conducts annual surveillance through annual reporting and on-site visits are based on risk. Good performance and demonstration of a stable quality system allows for on site visits in alternate years in most schemes. Poor performance may result in annual on-site visits. The IOAS works on a 4 year cycle, so full reassessment takes […]

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