Standards, certification and labelling
Standardization is an effort of industrial stakeholders to define criteria for the description of products and services. The idea is to ease the competition and the commercial growth by overcoming barriers that result from unclear or incompatible specifications. The use of standards is voluntary. This means, it is in the sovereignty of a company to seek the compliance with a standard or not. In the latter case, however, it is not allowed to make the reference to the standard.
Certain European standards are called harmonised standards. This means that the European Commission mandated the European Standardization Organisation CEN to elaborate the content of the standard. The Commission sets the topic, but does not intervene in the technical part of the job.
Standards specify how e.g. measurements of biodegradability or renewability of a given material need to be performed, or which criteria need to be fulfilled. A product or service that fulfils these requirements can legitimately claim compliance to the specific standard.
Claims on conformity can be made as self-declared claims or as independently verified claims. This is the moment where certifiers enter the game. A certifier is a producer-independent body that typically fulfils the requirements of the ISO 45011 standard.
The certifier checks whether or not the requirements laid down in a standard are met. The company, that wants to have the conformity of a product or service with a specific standard certified, needs to bring evidence. This typically comprises test reports of acknowledged laboratories. The company applying for the certification is charged for this service by the certifier.
A certificate issued by a certifier can qualify a product to bear a quality mark. This is a matter of specific regulation between a certifier and the owner of a trademark. For example, the seedling is the trademark of European Bioplastics, while DIN CERTCO and Vinçotte are performing the assessment of the conformity of a product. After successful certification, the specific product is eligible to be labelled with the respective mark.