Dovetail Partners provides information and assistance to companies and organizations that are seeking to participate in chain-of-custody certification. If you have questions and are looking for answers, contact us.
Most certification systems are designed to operate as market-based incentive programs that hope to attract customers by communicating something about production processes or the origins of the raw materials in the certified product. Whether it is food produced without synthetic chemicals or paper from recycled fiber, eco-labels try to tell a story. A critical role of certification systems is to assure customers that the story is true. The verification of the story is the role of the chain-of-custody (COC) certification process.
In forest certification and many other quality assurance programs, there are generally two types of certification. One certification process is applied to the producer, through evaluation of forestland management operations in the case of forest certification or farm operations in the case of organic certifications. This process involve evaluating procedures and practices associated with growing, managing, and producing the raw material. The second type of certification is the process applied to auditing manufacturers, processors and others along the value chain. This second process is often called chain-of-custody (COC) certification. As an interesting aside, the term chain-of- custody has history as police terminology, where it means a “process used to maintain and document the chronological history of the evidence”.
The basic concept of COC is a system that assures end consumers that the products they buy can be traced back to a certified source. In some situations the product verification trail is relatively short, for example from green lumber at a local sawmill using logs from a local certified forest. However, in an increasingly global market of highly processed products, the chain-of-custody can become quite complex.