These tips will help ensure a smooth audit process for when you need a certification audit to verify your compliance with the Chain of Custody standard (ChoC).
Read the Chain of Custody standard
Read the Chain of Custody standard (ChoC) and make sure you comply with the applicable control points.
Contact a Certification Body to schedule your audit
UTZ certification audits are conducted by independent third party Certification Bodies (CBs) which are approved by UTZ. Please contact a CB directly to plan a certification audit. In order to get the best offer, we recommend you contact several CBs.
Plan your audit in time
The timeframe in which your first certification audit needs to be scheduled, depends on the traceability level your company operates under.
- Mass Balance*: no longer than 4 months after the first purchase of UTZ certified product. Products purchased more than 4 months before the audit date cannot be claimed as UTZ.
- Identity Preserved (IP)/Segregation**: no longer than 4 months after the first delivery of UTZ certified product. Products received more than 4 months before the audit date cannot be claimed as UTZ.
Supply Chain Actors (SCAs) are not allowed to sell UTZ certified products until they have received a valid certificate.
* For cocoa and hazelnut SCAs only. Administrative traceability of a certified product.
** Identity Preserved: the identity of a certified producer/producer group is maintained along the supply chain. Segregation: the product was produced by UTZ certified producers/producer groups but the identity of the specific producers is lost.
Please find more detailed information in the article Traceability Levels.
Do a self-assessment before the audit takes place
Conduct a self-assessment, using the Chain of Custody standard checklist and share it with the Certification Body (CB) before the audit takes place. If you work with subcontractors, make a list of them and their activities and share this together with their self-assessments with the CB.
Check the timeline of the certification process
- Certification decision: the Certification Body (CB) makes a decision on certification or not within 4 weeks after all non-conformities have been resolved*. Or, in case of no non-conformities, after the audit date;
- Request license in UTZ traceability system: the CB requests a license in the UTZ traceability system within 1 week after the certification decision was taken;
- Review request: UTZ reviews the license request within 1 week;
- Clarification needed: in case UTZ has any questions for your CB, the request will be returned for further clarification. The CB sends the request with further information back to UTZ within 1 week. UTZ reviews this updated request within 1 week.
* Non-conformities should be resolved within a maximum of 12 weeks after the last audit date.
Please see also pages 16/17 of the Certification Protocol.
The re-certification audit needs to be scheduled in the period from 4 months before to 4 months after the expiry date of the certificate.
If your certificate is about to expire and the audit or certification decision is delayed, make sure you request a time extension while the certificate is still valid. You can request a time extension to your Certification Body (CB) up to 4 months:
- if the original certificate is still valid and a re-certification audit has been planned and confirmed
- the next certificate will be valid for the remaining time (e.g. if a 2-month extension is granted, your new certificate will be valid for 10 months).
Get a Chain of Custody certificate that is valid for two years
UTZ certified members that perform well in ChoC audits can apply for a certificate that is valid for two years. This is only possible after the second audit and if you pass the audit with 0-2 non-conformities.
The two-year validity of your certificate will be maintained for subsequent audits, as long as you pass them with 0-2 non-conformities. In case of 3 or more non-conformities, the validity will be lowered again to one year.
Get an extension to your certificate, when something changes
Changes that occur during the validity of a certificate and that imply an increase, may be included through extensions, for example:
- Time (only granted if requested while the certificate is still valid)
- Processing activity
- Traceability level
To request these types of extensions to your Certification Body, please see pages 20/21 of the Certification Protocol.
Read the article How do I ensure a smooth audit process?
Having an uninterrupted, valid certificate is a prerequisite for running your business with UTZ smoothly. In the Better Business Hub article How do I ensure a smooth audit process?, our Standards & Assurance Officer Annika Gabriel explains who does what in the certification process, and offers tips for ensuring your audit goes without a hitch.
Read the certification protocol
To get a complete view of all the rules related to the (re-)certification process, please read the Certification Protocol.