Oxebridge has filed a formal complaint with the certification body Control Union Certifications (CUC) after an ISO Whistleblower report the CB issued an ISO 14001 certificate for an industrial scope for which CUC is not accredited.

The Sri Lanka office of CUC certified the Israeli company Global Roto Sheka for ISO 14001, under the industrial scope “Division 17:  Manufacturing of Paper and Paper Products.” The official schedule of accreditation for the Sri Lanka office, issued by the Sri Lanka Accreditation Board (SLAB) does not list Division 17 on the scope of accreditation.

Per accreditation rules, accredited CBs may only issue certificates for companies within industrial scopes for which they have demonstrated competence.

The investigation yielded a number of other problems related to the CUC Sri Lanka activities.  CUC Sri Lanka has certified a number of companies in that region, but the SLAB accreditation does not indicate CUC Sri Lanka even has an office or resources in Israel. Sources report that a number of the Israeli companies certified by CUC for environmental management systems were reported by local media as being some of the worst polluters in the region; Oxebridge did not independently verify this, however.

Additional issues related to CUC’s accreditation have been raised with SLAB.

In a bizarre turn, the CUC Netherlands website’s complaints handling procedure warns potential complainants that if CUC clears itself of wrongdoing in a complaint, it reserves the right to charge the complainant for “costs” associated with the investigation. Oxebridge has warned CUC that this violates ISO 17021’s requirements to remain “open to complaints,” as it amounts to a pre-emptive threat to potential complainants. Furthermore, it violates rules on impartiality as it incentivizes CUC to find clear itself for any complaint, and then generate revenue from that decision, whether valid or not.

From the CUC website:

If CUC decides and substantiates that CUC or any of its employees, officers, agents or subcontractors was not to be blamed to the extent specified in the complaint, all costs and expenses may be charged to the complainant.

Oxebridge has warned CUC that it will not pay any fees associated with a complaint, and would hold CUC legally liable if it attempted to do so.

Control Union was subject to another investigation by the Dutch accreditation body RvA. In that complaint, ISO whistleblowers reported a number of irregularities related to CUC’s accreditation and its Israel operations. RvA initially ignored the complaint, and it was escalated into a complaint against RvA itself. In response to that escalation, RvA responded that it had already begun the process of lifting the CUC suspension before receiving the Oxebridge website, and that it then allowed the suspension to be lifted regardless. RvA then said it “decided to limit our actions to requesting Control Union to review and adapt their claims on the Israelian [sic] website as soon as possible.” At this time, Oxebridge cannot confirm if these actions were taken.

RvA took no action for its own refusal to process the complaint initially.

It now appears that CUC was engaging in “accreditation shopping” by transferring its Israel activities from the local office, which was under suspension by RvA, to the Sri Lanka office over 5,400 km away, so that it would fall under accreditation by SLAB. The IAF and its regional body APAC are supposed to police such actions, but have not done so.


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Why we report on these topics

Since 2000, Oxebridge has worked to improve ISO and related certification schemes by identifying problems and then proposing solutions. We report on issues affecting standards users because so few other news outlets do. Our belief is that in order to fix the problems in these schemes, we must first understand the nature and breadth of those problems. Our reporting aims to do just that. Elsewhere on the Oxebridge site you will find White Papers and other articles proposing ideas to correct these problems.