Background

Under the current Chain of Custody (CoC) requirements, a certifier must suspend a CoC certificate if a company:

  • Doesn't allow a scheduled audit within 90 days of the due date
  • Has sold products as MSC-certified which are shown not to be MSC-certified
  • Cannot demonstrate that products sold as MSC-certified are MSC-certified
  • Has not addressed any major non-conformity within the specified timeframe

The certifier may also suspend a CoC certificate if the certifier determines there has been a ‘demonstrated breakdown’ of the chain of custody system due to a client’s actions or inactions. There is no minimum time period for CoC suspensions, except for those determined to be ‘intentional or systematic’, which have a 6 month minimum time period.

When a CoC certificate is suspended, the certificate holder must notify all affected customers in writing within 4 days and must cease to make any claims of MSC-certified products from the date of suspension.

Known Issues with CoC Suspensions

Feedback from stakeholders indicates that current CoC suspension requirements are considered both too lenient in some regards and sometimes too harsh. These challenges include:

  • No distinction between ‘self-declared’ cases of substitution or mislabeling and those found by a certifier. Both can lead to a suspension of certificate, even if the problem occurred in the past and has already been resolved;
  • No requirements on how companies affected by non-conforming product must relabel the product and communicate to their customers;
  • No minimum time period for suspensions (except for those considered intentional/ or systematic)  – this means in some cases a certificate can be reinstated the same day it is ‘suspended’, yet customers still need to be notified (leading to financial or reputational impacts).

Some stakeholders also expressed the view that in comparison with other standards like British Retail Consortium (BRC), the financial and reputational impacts of suspension under MSC requirements may be undeservedly harsh given the nature of some non-conformities.