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The Role of Accreditation in Sustainability

Verifications and validations: the first Body accredited by Accredia in Italy according to ISO/IEC 17029

The theme of sustainability sells. The value of green spending by Italians in 2021 reached 12.5 billion euros – as found by a Nielsen GS1 Italy study – with advertising on ethical and sustainable development now worth 23.6% of the total. Due to a lack of effective instruments however, there has been difficulty distinguishing between true and false claims.

However, credible and reliable green communications are now possible thanks to accreditation. Accredited Italian Body EthicsGO and their “certiClaim Sustainability Programme” scheme provides for verification and validation of such claims.

The “certiClaim Sustainability Programme” scheme is an instrument through which 400 parameters are analysed for each sector with regard to the 17 objectives of the UN 2030 Agenda, in turn set out in terms of the three environmental, economic and social dimensions required by UNI/PdR 102:2021. To guarantee consumers a process of verification and validation for each communicated claim, the scheme reviews five criteria: the admissibility, truthfulness, conformity, ethics and sustainability.

EthicsGO is the first Body accredited in Italy by Accredia against the ISO/IEC 17029 standard.

By verifying the correct formulation of the claims on the subject of sustainable development, under all the aspects covered by the legislation, bodies accredited against the ISO/IEC 17029 standard guarantee the validation of “ethical” claims, helping to protect consumers and the market from the risks associated with untruthful, incorrect or imprecisely formulated claims.

ISO/IEC 17029 requires the availability of specific programmes that are able to provide greater or lesser credibility to the required information. The term “programme”, which is substantially equivalent to that of “scheme”, is cited continuously, reflecting its importance for a correct application.

In order to clarify the fields of application, Accredia issued the Informative Circular  DC N° 15/2020 “Update of the standard for the accreditation of Validation and Verification Bodies”.

Accredited sustainability verifications

The problem to be addressed is not only that of greenwashing and ethicswashing but also the diffusion of models and verification methods. Many attestations of sustainable businesses are often based on questionnaires deriving from self-declarations, and not validated by independent third party attestations.

To give substance to all the ethical claims of responsibility for sustainable development, standards and procedures have therefore been created that can be adopted by companies and verified by accredited bodies: ISO/TS 17033; and the Italian Publicly Available Specification UNI/PdR 102.

ISO/TS 17033 “Ethical claims and supporting information – Principles and requirements” is aimed at every type of organization and concerns all types of ethical claims, from fair trade to energy saving, from animal welfare to sustainability, providing support information where specific standards are not applicable or to integrate those already active. The purpose of ISO/TS 17033 is that claims that can be qualified as “ethical”, as they contain references to the three dimensions of sustainable development: social justice, economic development, environmental protection.

To provide the application guidelines regarding sustainability of the requirements of ISO/TS 17033, the Publicly Available Specification UNI/PdR 102 “Ethical claims of responsibility for sustainable development – Application guidelines to UNI ISO/TS 17033:2020” applies in Italy; it is a national document resulting from the collaboration between Accredia and UNI (the Italian Standardization Body). Through the structured process guided by the practice UNI/PdR 102, which provides for the assessment of the impacts between generations in terms of sustainable development and the use of reporting tools already commonly used on the market, the organization can validate the actions underlying the claim also with reference to the fundamental issues of UNI ISO 26000 and the objectives of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The evaluation according to UNI ISO/TS 17033 and UNI/PdR 102 is additional with respect to the verification conducted against a technical documentprogramme – to ensure the fulfilment of preparatory and essential requirements for the correct communication of the claim. The programme sets out the rules and procedures for performing the verification activities of the claim in the specific area or sector, indicating, among other things, the context of use, the criteria of competence, the gathering of evidence and reporting activities.

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