New accreditation services for economic growth and environmental assessment
Accreditation is one of the pillars of the Quality Infrastructure (QI). This attestation facilitates international trade, improves the quality and security of products, and fosters environmental protection.
One of the most common barriers Colombian small and medium enterprises (SMEs) face is the lack of metrological, accreditation, and other QI institutions’ services. This barrier generates extra costs for producers and consumers when hiring the services abroad, thus affecting Colombia´s competitiveness and economic growth.
With the support of Global Quality and Standards Programme (GQSP) Colombia, the National Accreditation Body Organismo Nacional de Acreditación de Colombia (ONAC) is developing a new accreditation service for reference material producers. This will make it easier for chemical measurements such as those related to environmental parameters, health and food safety, to have accepted references that ensure the reliability of those measurements, impacting both private sector companies and public institutions.
One of Colombia´s main competitiveness problems is a misalignment between the QI’s services and industry needs. The root cause of this problem can be poor communication between institutions and SMEs and guilds or typical constraints in public institutions.
Several years ago, ONAC identified the need for accreditation of reference materials producers to ensure that the country has appropriate measurements in chemical, environmental or health variables. Since 2021, GQSP Colombia has been supporting ONAC in developing this new accreditation service. Moreover, the program supports the national reference material producers, strengthening their technical capacities to access this accreditation in the future.
This initiative complements ONAC’s efforts to offer accreditation services with a sustainable approach. Since 2017, ONAC has offered specific services with a sustainable approach, such as accreditation for energy management systems certification, GLOBALG.A.P., the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes (PEFC) and greenhouse gas validation/verification. In the long term, ONAC’s new technical capacities could be used to determine environmental parameters and improve the assessment of cities´ environmental performance.
The American Association for Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA) has vast experience in certified reference materials. This institution is guiding ONAC on technical training of its staff, observation, documentary review, and internal audit, thanks to GQSP support.
GQSP experts and the Colombian National Metrology Institute are also guiding 4 laboratories in implementing ISO 17034:2016 General requirements for the competence of reference material producers so they can access the new accreditation service once available.
ONAC is expecting to have its first accredited laboratory by the end of this year and obtain international recognition by 2023.
Results and impact
In the short term, this new service will facilitate the accreditation of testing laboratories in food and environmental variables, reduce producers’ costs, improve measurements’ quality in production processes, facilitate compliance with technical requirements, increase SMEs’ competitiveness and foster international trade.
Moreover, this new service will motivate laboratories to produce reference materials rather than import them, increasing the national offer. Colombia could also export this service and certified reference materials to neighbouring countries.
In the long term, ONAC could take advantage of this capacity to establish a regional accreditation offer for this type of conformity assessment body and be a benchmark in the Americas for the transfer of experiences and knowledge in this area. Additionally, the production of certified reference materials will allow the country to generate reliable and high-quality information facilitating the decision-making and public policy design for environmental, economic, and social problems.
Mr. Javier Fernandez – J.FERNANDEZRODRIGUEZ@unido.org and Ms. Maria Paula Godoy
Organisation: UNIDO – Colombia Field office