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Retail Technology, Retail technology News

BRC centralises and simplifies audit process

Tuesday November 15 2011

Retail trade association supports certification documentation preparation and communication for Global Standards Directory

Retail trade association supports certification documentation preparation and communication for Global Standards Directory


The British Retail Consortium (BRC) Global Standards are a set of four industry technical standards that specify requirements to be met by an organisation to enable the production, packaging, storage and distribution of safe food and consumer products.


The BRC needed a way to help retailers, suppliers and certification bodies to work together more effectively on the audit process and enable the secure communication of audit data, including audit certificates and detailed audit results, between the different parties.


Previously, the different parties would have to liaise together using traditional forms of communication such as email or telephone, which was time consuming and administration heavy. Audit reports would also have been shared in this way and therefore could not be managed or accessed in real-time. There was also no central repository for searching for a hundred certification bodies and the 17,500-plus BRC audited suppliers.


Bespoke collaboration platform


Trace One, a collaboration software specialist, was the chosen company to develop the Global Standards Directory as its proposed bespoke software provided a collaborative solution to the challenge of simplifying the audit process. The Directory is currently accessed by over 17,000 suppliers and 100 Certification Bodies, as well as major retailers including Sainsbury’s.


“Trace One’s solution really enabled us to achieve what we wanted to and more. In addition, they were and still are a pleasure to work with, helping us every step of the way, commented Tessa Kelly, BRC Trading commercial director. “For the retailers we work with, the Directory provides authorised access to which suppliers are certified, in which standards, to which level (grades A, B and C) with full audit reports, including certificates and detailed audit results.”


The Global Standards Directory is also continually updated with new details showing the certification status of suppliers. In addition, emails advise suppliers that their new audit details have been added to the system, as well advising them of status changes and certificate expiry dates. It also provides a way of searching for Certification Bodies according to a star rating system (1-5).


Central, secure audit process management


The Directory now provides the industry with a secure central way of managing the complete audit process. It also provides individual benefits to all the stakeholders in the standards audit and certification process. For retailers, the Directory enables them to quickly see which suppliers are audited, as well as see full reports when granted access. This provides them with peace of mind so that they can give evidence of due diligence in terms of working with audited suppliers as necessary.


For suppliers, it enables them to grow their businesses by being part of a major industry directory and making their details and credentials available to a larger number of retailers. It also helps them to improve their audit processes and provides them with a way of searching for relevant certification bodies.


For certification bodies, it allows them to market themselves to suppliers and retailers, with star ratings according to their performance levels.


Managing standards evolution


The benefits for the BRC include being able to build ongoing commercial relationships with all the different parties, as Kelly continued: “The directory allows us to communicate with suppliers and retailers and market our events, conferences and products that are relevant to each. In addition, we can also offer relevant training to those using the Directory.” The BRC can also manage the performance and consistency of the certification bodies, as well as the application of the BRC Standards.


Originally developed in response to the needs of UK members of the British Retail Consortium, the standards have gained usage worldwide and are specified by a growing numbers of retailers and branded manufacturers in the European Union, North America and further afield. Certification to a global standard, which is achieved through audit by a third party certification body, reassures retailers and branded manufacturers of the capability and competence of the supplier and reduces the need for retailers and manufacturers to carry out their own audits, thereby reducing the administrative burden on both the supplier and the customer. The four standards are in food, consumer products, packaging and storage and distribution categories. The standards are continually evolving and to date over 17,500 companies in over 100 countries have achieved certification against one of the standards.