An introduction to the Programme assurance team
In September 2018 I joined the ASC Programme Assurance (PA) team as an intern, and now that I’m acquainted with the many activities of ASC’s newest team I thought I’d give you all a taste of what we’re up to.
The PA team is charged with a wide variety of tasks within ASC. While the Standards & Science team develops our species standards, the PA team makes sure these standards are effectively implemented and audited. The PA team is therefore in close contact with the Conformity Assessment Bodies (CABs) and their auditors. To assure the quality of the audits, the PA team is developing and improving various tools and methods for the audit process. For example, members of the team are creating and revising audit report templates and other forms that are used by auditors to report their findings to ASC. As part of this work, we also do Quality Assurance checks to test the completeness and content of the reports.
The requirements and rules that auditors, CABs and farms have to meet and follow are recorded in the Certification and Accreditation Requirements (CAR). The CAR assures CABs operate in a consistent and controlled manner, and provides documentation to assure long-term continuity and consistency of the delivery of ASC certification. To make sure that auditors fully understand the CAR, the PA team arranges training sessions– and these are in addition to the mandatory training that auditors must undergo for the specific standard that they want to audit. This training is intended to ensure that all auditors are able to recognise responsible aquaculture practices on farms and implement ASC standards to the high requirements of the programme. Before they can carry out audits, they must demonstrate their knowledge by participating in a mandatory exam. The PA team is revising and improving this training and the CAR continuously, to assure the quality and keep up with the changes within the aquaculture industry.
At ASC we take the integrity of our label and ASC certified products very seriously, and the PA team plays an important role in protecting this integrity by working closely together with the MSC in the ASC Chain of Custody certification programme. The Chain of Custody covers every step a product takes to get from farm to the retailer, and knowing this is vital to ensure that ASC labelled products only contain responsibly sourced seafood. Members of the PA team are working here on investigation cases to prevent or stop, for example, the mislabelling of products. Connected to this is the PA team’s Product Provenance Project. This project also aims to strengthen the product integrity, by assuring the flow of product origin information throughout the entire supply chain.
Transparency is a fundamental principle for us at ASC, which is why all audit reports and certificates are published on our website. We coordinate this in the PA team, by assuring that the auditors deliver all the correct reports within the given deadlines, so they can be published on our website. All these reports contain a huge amount of data from all the ASC certified farms, which is also managed by the PA team. Not only are these reports and data important in providing confidence in the programme, they can be used by researchers and others in the industry to help drive improvements.
That’s not an exhaustive list of all of our activities but hopefully it gives you an idea of the scale of what we’re up to. It goes without saying that we couldn’t do all of this without closely working with our colleagues in all of the other teams across ASC. While we have different areas of responsibility and expertise, We all share the same goal – to transform aquaculture towards environmental sustainability and social responsibility!