3 Questions for
Raoul Kirmes | German national accreditation body
Ing. Prof. Dr. Raoul Kirmes has headed the staff unit responsible for fundamental accreditation issues at the German national accreditation body DAkkS (Deutsche Akkreditierungsstelle) since 2016. He studied law and computer science in Berlin and Wrocław, and gained a doctorate in European standardisation and accreditation law.
Professor Kirmes is also a qualified information security technology engineer and a lecturer at the Brandenburg University of Applied Sciences. Utilising his expertise, he also supported the Green Button Secretariat and the certification scheme owner in continuing development of the government-run certification label, as a member of the expert advisory council.
1. What is it that makes a certification label credible?
The credibility of certification labels depends on a variety of factors. First and foremost, the certification body must be independent and technically competent, and these characteristics must be monitored by the government at regular intervals. This is how it works with accredited systems such as the Green Button. All certification bodies involved in the Green Button scheme offer a high level of guarantee of their independence and the correctness of their conformity statements.
Another aspect of the credibility of certification labels is the audit procedures themselves. In the case of the Green Button these were subjected to additional thorough testing by the national accreditation body: an official analysis and review attested that the procedures of the Green Button certification programme are in line with the state of the art in science and technology and are suitable for delivering reproducible and comparable results.
Thirdly, the credibility of the certification label also relies on the Green Button conformity statement being properly communicated and being properly understood by consumers. The scope and object of the audit must also be clear. The Green Button, for example, does not examine specific product properties; instead it imposes requirements regarding compliance with defined processes in the production of textiles and the risk management and due diligence management system at the manufacturer or distributor of the product. The audited processes and systems enable the company to be sure that it never falls short of certain minimum requirements in the supply chain. In addition, companies have to prove that they have their sights set on a long-term improvement in production conditions. The processes for managing and controlling the supply chains should also be designed for the systematic pursuit of long-term goals, even if this cannot always be the case in each individual instance, given the global realities of today. One example of this is paying living wages, which must be the aim to work towards in the medium and long term.
2. What are the greatest challenges during audits?
The complexity of the supply chains in a globalised and networked economy presents a considerable challenge for the companies but also for the auditors. Disclosing supply chains and monitoring specified characteristics in the deeper supply chain are important prerequisites for being able to bring about real improvements on the ground. This has to be what matters. Labelling with the Green Button makes it clear that the manufacturer or distributor is attempting to achieve precisely that: companies initiate processes with the specific aim of being able to achieve a noticeable improvement in terms of the observance of human rights standards in production in the medium and long term.
3. You supported the Green Button as a member of the expert advisory council. What, for you, is special about the Green Button?
At the national accreditation body we have a good overview of the systems available around the world that aim to achieve comparable goals. The Green Button scheme pursues an ambitious approach with regard to the requirements defined for the companies, but at the same time it combines these with the greatest possible degree of international compatibility in terms of system implementation. This is because the Green Button systematically utilises the conformity assessment systems established in the industry in accordance with the European Union’s new legislative framework. This enables the textile businesses to introduce the Green Button requirements at lower expense and maintain them over the long term because they use established instruments and international accreditation systems. Making sure this system compatibility was in place was something I was particularly keen on, because the Green Button’s objectives are also dependent on acceptance among the manufacturers who have to subject themselves to the audits. In this way the Green Button can make an important contribution to helping SMEs in particular to manage the risks in their supply chains.