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Third-Party Certification & Methodology?

What is Third-Party Certification & Third-Party Certification Methodology?

Third-Party Certification is a form of certification in which the producer’s claim of conformity is validated, as part of a third-party certification program, by a technically and otherwise competent body other than one controlled by the producer or buyer.

Third-party certification programs differ greatly from one another, and the degree of confidence in the resultant certification depends on the type of program and its comprehensiveness (the number and types of test/inspection methods used within the program to assess conformity).

The methods used in third-party certification programs can be classified as follows:

  • Type-testing/Initial Inspection – This method works to determine if the manufacturer’s design specifications can produce a product that conforms to a particular standard. Products from a preproduction run are inspected and/or tested, but this method provides no information on whether products from an actual production run also consistently meet the specification.
  • Surveillance of the Manufacturing Process – Assessment of a manufacturer’s materials, production and control processes can, at relatively low cost, provide assurance that the manufacturer’s quality control procedures are adequate.
  • Audit-Testing – In this procedure, test samples are selected at random from the marketplace. Extensive testing is usually required to provide adequate assurance that products meet the referenced standard.
  • Field Investigations – Alleged failures of products during actual use are investigated to determine the cause of failure and to suggest appropriate corrective action.
  • Batch-testing – A sample of products is selected from a production batch and tested for conformance to the standard. If the sampling procedure and the sample size are adequate, batch-testing may be used to predict, with a specified degree of confidence, that all products in that batch conform to the standard. It does not, however, ensure that an untested product in the batch will meet the standard nor does it furnish information on the quality of products produced in earlier or subsequent batches. Batch testing is used in many certification programs for building products.
  • 100 Percent Testing – In this method, each individual product is tested to determine if it meets the designated standard. If the testing procedures are adequate, the procedure provides the highest possible level of assurance that the product conforms to a particular standard. It is also usually the most expensive method and can be applied only where the test has no adverse effect on the product.

Many certification programs rely on two or more of these methods for their approval process. The choice of methods depends on the needs of both the buyer and the seller and on the nature of the product. The chosen methods can greatly affect both the cost of the program and the level of confidence that can be ascribed to it.

What is an Eco-Label or Certification Mark?

A certification mark is defined as “a sign or symbol owned or controlled by the certification body that is used exclusively by the third-party certification program to identify products or services as being certified and is registered as a certification mark [when used in the United States] with the U.S. Patent Office under the Trade Marks Act of 1946.”

A certificate of conformity, on the other hand is “A tag, label, nameplate, or document of specified form and contents, affixed or otherwise directly associated with a product or service on delivery to the buyer, attesting that the product or service is in conformity with the referenced standards or specifications.”

Certification marks and certificates of conformity should be used to indicate that all essential characteristics of the product have been assessed. In cases where only one or several aspects of the product have been evaluated, such as flammability or electrical safety, this information should be conveyed in some manner to the buyer lest the mark mislead the buyer into placing more reliance on the certification than is justified. To the extent possible, the symbols used in connection with the certification mark should be capable of being interpreted without further definition. The marks or accompanying information should also indicate the identity of the certification body and any relationship that the body may have to the manufacturer.

In addition, the certificate of conformity should contain information on: (1) the lot, batch or other production information to allow traceability to the production source and time of production; (2) the date when the certificate was issued; and (3) the officer of the company responsible for its issuance.

Labeling included with the product should identify the producer, and contain information on the product’s name, type or model number and all instructions necessary for the correct and safe use and maintenance of the product.


What is Life Cycle Assessment?

Life Cycle Assessment is a systematic set of procedures for compiling and examining the inputs and outputs of materials and energy and the associated environmental impacts directly attributable to the functioning of a product or service system throughout its life cycle.

Life Cycle: Consecutive and interlinked stages of a product or service system, from the extraction of natural resources to the final disposal. – ISO 14040.2 Draft: Life Cycle Assessment – Principles and Guidelines