COVID-19 changes in operations
Dear Fairtrade Colleagues,
This is the timeline of FLOCERTs communications measures to its’ audiences in regards to the COVID-19 crisis (reverse order):
- June 30 – Public website: Update on continued remote audit approach starting July 1 (below)
- June 29 – Twitter/LinkedIn/public website: Remote Audit Blog Post
- June 29 – Customer Newsletter: All Customers received the update on continued remote audits, all customers were informed about success of premium use for corona relief
- June 17 – Stakeholder Training Day: session about Corona-related operational changes
- May 6 – FLOCERT’s response to the COVID-19 crisis – FLOCERT Webinar
- April 22 – Public website/Twitter/LinkedIn: News post on introduction of remote audit methodology (below), stakeholder portal update
- April 6 – Customer Newsletter: All Customers received the update on the audit methodology and information on the premium exception
- March 20 – Customer Mailing: All customers with upcoming audits were informed about immediate stop of physical audit. We also sent video tutorials on remote audits in all languages.
- March 16 – Public website/Twitter/LinkedIn: News post informing about the stop of physical audits.
Update as of July 1st
As the situation slowly clears in some countries, we will start resuming onsite audits where possible. Guaranteeing the health, safety and smooth operations of the millions of farmers, producers and traders who continue to work through the pandemic remains FLOCERT’s top priority. We will therefore consider carefully where we can again conduct onsite audits without posing any health risk to our customers and their communities, or to our auditors and staff. The decision will be based on the local situation and regulations as well as auditors' required travel routes. The main requirement will be that there are no travel restrictions within the region where our auditees and auditors are located. In order to assess restrictions, we will listen to the customer's feedback. If there are no valid reasons not to conduct the audit, the usual auditing approach will apply.
Remote audit approach continues
Where we cannot yet conduct onsite audits, we will continue with the remote audit methodology until further notice. We will continue to keep you up to date on any overall developments and our analysts will be in touch on an individual basis for any upcoming audits.
- For traders this means: Any audit may be converted into a remote audit. Our certification analysts will inform traders with upcoming audits whether they will be conducted remotely or onsite.
- For producers this means: wherever possible, FLOCERT will offer remote audits with a limited scope as approved by Fairtrade International. We will defer audits where remote auditing is not an option. Our certification analysts will inform producer organisations with upcoming audits whether their audit will be postponed or carried out remotely. Following instructions from Fairtrade International, we will continue to not offer any renewal audits or initial audits for producer organisations.
As always, we will answer any further questions you may have.
FLOCERT Director of Operations
Find below our tutorials for remote audits for Fairtrade traders available in (EN, ES, DE, FR)
- Tutorial for remote audits for Fairtrade traders (EN)
- Tutorial: Auditorías remotas para comerciantes Fairtrade (ES)
- Anleitung: Remote-Audits für Fairtrade-Händler (DE)
- Tutoriel: audits à distance pour les acteurs commerciaux Fairtrade (FR)
Original post from 22.04.2020
From 23 March 2020 onwards, all physical audits were amended as follows for our different customer groups:
All physical audits scheduled until 30 June, 2020, were converted into remote audits.
The following communication was sent out to our certified traders in mid-March, together with a tutorial (available in English, Spanish, French and German) that explains the new audit process:
We trust you and your teams are staying safe and healthy during this challenging time. We are contacting you because you have a Fairtrade audit coming up. While this coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) is unprecedented, we are here to support you in your quest to continue running your business as close to normalcy as possible, while remaining Fairtrade certified.
FLOCERT is supporting the efforts to slow the spread of the virus. In order to protect both you and our auditors we needed to eliminate physical interactions between you and our auditors. So we needed to change how we conduct Fairtrade audits, while allowing you do demonstrate compliance to remain Fairtrade certified. To allow this to happen, your physical Fairtrade audit will now be conducted remotely. Please view the simple tutorial that explains the new process and your obligations.
Your FLOCERT auditor will get in touch with you shortly, to schedule your remote Fairtrade audit. We are aware, that you might have further questions or concerns. Please note your certification analyst is therefore on standby to support you. Or you may of course write to email@example.com.
Thank you for your understanding and flexibility
All physical audits scheduled until 22 April, 2020, had been postponed. Starting 22 April, for audits scheduled until 30 June, 2020, FLOCERT offers remote audits wherever possible and defers audits where remote auditing is not an option.
Our certification analysts will contact all producer organisations with audits scheduled for this time period individually and inform them whether their audit will be postponed or carried out remotely.
This is the text basis the FLOCERT analyst will use in case the audit will be carried out remotely:
As the COVID-19 pandemic grips the world, we at FLOCERT wish to extend our thoughts to you and your families, your members, workers and communities. I am writing to you since you have a Fairtrade audit coming up. In order to protect your health and that of our auditors, we will not carry out any audits onsite for the time being. We will instead convert Focused Audits scheduled until 30 June 2020, into remote audits. This means that the auditor will not visit you physically on your premises, but conduct the audit remotely, based on a document review and on a live interaction via an online tool. Please, also see the FLOCERT´s official communication from April 22nd and the FAQ.
In the following, you will find more details on the new audit procedure for remote audits. Please note that this process looks very different to the regular onsite audit you are used to. A remote audit is divided into four parts, which take place on different days:
1. Preparation and scoping call
First, you will have a call with the auditor to test connectivity and agree on the online meeting tool to use for the live interaction. You can discuss any challenges regarding the accessibility of documentation and ask questions about the process during this call. Furthermore, you will agree on dates for the desktop review and live interaction.
2. Collection of documents
After the scoping call, the auditor will contact you via e-mail and provide you with an audit preparation letter as you would normally receive during a regular onsite audit. This letter contains a list of documents and materials you are asked to prepare for your remote audit and send to the auditor within a defined period of time.
3. Desktop review
On the agreed date of the Desktop review, the auditor will review all documentation you have provided. The audit preparation letter also defines who within your organisation might get contacted by the auditor in order to clarify potential questions on that day. Therefore, please make sure that the contact persons are available on the date of the desktop review.
4. Live interaction
On the previously agreed date and time, you will reconnect with the FLOCERT auditor via the online meeting tool. Similar to regular onsite audits, there will be a formal opening meeting where the auditor will share the agenda of the meeting with you. The auditor will then triangulate findings from the desktop review and check the remaining points from the audit checklist. The auditor will explain the audit findings and ask you to sign the closing report.
The follow-up process after the audit will be as usual.
A Fairtrade auditor will get in touch with you soon to arrange a date for the preparation and scoping call. We are aware that you might have further questions or concerns. As always, please do not hesitate to contact me. Thank you for your understanding and flexibility.
This is the text basis the FLOCERT analyst will use if the audit is postponed:
We trust you and your teams are staying safe and healthy during this challenging time. While this Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) is unprecedented, we have changed our operations so you can run your business as close to normalcy as possible, while remaining Fairtrade certified.
We are writing to you since you have a Fairtrade audit scheduled. In order to protect your health and that of our auditors, we will not carry out any audits onsite for the time being. Therefore, we will have to postpone your audit to later in 2020 when it will be possible for our auditors again to visit your premises. Please rest assured that your current Fairtrade certificate will not be affected and remains valid.
We will get in touch with you on time for further planning. We are aware that you might have further questions or concerns. If this is the case, please do not hesitate to contact me directly.
Thank you for your understanding and flexibility.
The current methodology to provide the "Permission to Trade (PTT)" will continue.
There are approximately 100 producer organisations as well as 600 traders that may receive a remote audit until 30 June 2020.
FLOCERT has adopted the remote auditing methodology in order to continue preserving the high credibility of Fairtrade certification, instead of just postponing producer audits and accumulating risks. However, elements of the Fairtrade standard that compulsorily require physical assessments have been excluded, and these will be scrutinized during the next physical audit. Criteria that are excluded will be conveyed in our website, in order to maintain a high degree of transparency.
For any question you may have, please get in touch with NFOServices@flocert.net.
The current solution offered by FLOCERT is meant to provide an immediate relief to Fairtrade organisations. Our remote audit methodology hence is currently applicable only until 30 June and directed towards a small group of customers that have audits scheduled. FLOCERT currently does not offer any renewal audits or initial audits.
FLOCERT is also working on a longer term plan on how to best manage credibility concerns during the ongoing Corona pandemic.
FLOCERT Director of Operations
Contact customer service with specific questions: +49 (0)22824930 or email
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