The United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT) is launching an e-business initiative for increased transparency in product claims using digital methods and is detailed in the White Paper on Digital Product Conformity Certificate Exchange. The paper proposes a digital framework to connect data sources for better product compliance insight.
Ensuring the reliability of product claims – such as safety, performance or sustainability – is essential for the trustworthy functioning of markets and allows consumer choice to be exercised with greater confidence.
Product integrity is underpinned by a vast network of conformity assessment processes, operating largely out of public view and performed in accordance with agreed standards. An important data element in establishing the validity of issued certificates and attestations is the identity of the accreditation body that is a signatory of ILAC and IAF global mutual recognition arrangements.
Currently, an individual who has sought an attestation of conformity about a product may not always be in a position to determine whether the physical product they have purchased is the same as the subject of the certificate, or that the certificate remains current or that it was validly issued in the first place. Digital linking of product data, using processes that access original data sources in real time, brings advantages over paper-based systems that might otherwise require onerous verification steps to confirm product attributes with any degree of certainty.
The concepts presented could hold relevance for virtually every industry in the world and so fostering an inclusive stakeholder dialogue will certainly take time. UN/CEFACT, as an intergovernmental standardisation body, is a useful forum for engaging with governments, however, direct industry engagement remains a challenge. It is hoped that the new White Paper will help raise awareness and interest in digital assurance systems of the future, particularly within the private sector, where having regard to global supply chains, the potential productivity benefits are substantial.
The White Paper on Digital Product Conformity Certificate Exchange is available for download at unece.org/trade/uncefact/guidance-material