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Accreditation: Supporting The Future Of Global Trade

The vital role that accreditation plays in supporting the future of global trade is the focus of this year’s World Accreditation Day (WAD), which is being celebrated on 9th June.

Jointly organised by ILAC (International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation) and IAF (International Accreditation Forum), WAD 2023 gives stakeholders, providers and users of accredited services the opportunity to demonstrate how accredited services help build strong, flexible and sustainable global supply chains.

Improving supply chains and enabling trade

Research conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) indicates that up to 80% of world trade involves elements of accredited conformity assessment against international standards. This view is supported by Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR), which estimates that standards contribute over £6bn to UK exports annually[1].

Having a robust supply chain is an essential element of modern business, particularly for those trading across international borders. With goods and services increasingly being sourced from around the world, supply chains are becoming ever more complex. Rapid innovation, shorter lead times and rising customer expectations are combining to increase pressure on supply chains. In turn this is making it concurrently more difficult yet more important to develop and retain the trust mechanisms that underpin all trading relationships.

Together with standards, regulations and metrology, accredited conformity assessment is an integral component of the UK’s quality infrastructure. Accreditation helps demonstrate the authenticity and traceability of goods, as well as the competence and impartiality of services. This provides procurers with the required confidence in quality, safety and integrity of goods and services that is the foundation of international trade, whilst simultaneously helping to simplify global supply chains.

Lowering barriers to trade

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has previously reported that global trade is set for a strong but uneven recovery after the shock of the COVID-19 pandemic[2]. Referenced in the WTO’s Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement, accreditation plays an important role in reducing barriers to trade. Owing to a series of multi-lateral agreements between the European co-operation for Accreditation (EA), IAF and ILAC, accreditation is accepted as equivalent in well over 100 economies around the world, representing more than 95% of global trade.

The objective of these agreements is to remove the need for testing, calibration, inspection and certification of goods of services to be repeated for each export market.  In addition to saving organisations time and money, this also helps simplify and build robust global supply chains. Accreditation is based on internationally accepted and recognised standards rather than country-specific regulations. Where mutual recognition is built into trade agreements, the structure, use and acceptance of accredited goods and services is largely unaffected by diverse regulatory regimes and geopolitical events.

Trading sustainably

According to a recent sustainability report from The Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS) the ongoing costs of the COVID-19 pandemic combined with rising energy prices and international trade barriers has forced around three quarters of UK business leaders to compromise on delivering their sustainability goals[3]. In addition to laying the foundations for increasing both quality and trade, WAD 2023 will also showcase how accreditation supports United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 9, 10, 14 and 17), helping UK businesses meet sustainability targets.

Get involved

Stakeholders, providers and users of accredited services are encouraged to join in with this year’s celebrations by using the hashtag #WAD2023 in the run up to the day.

On 9th June IAF and ILAC is jointly hosting a virtual event discussing how accreditation supports global trade. The event will be held in two separate time slots at 07:00 and 15:00 UK Time (08:00 and 16:00 UTC respectively) and a full agenda will be released shortly. Details of how to register for the event, along with a statement, brochure, poster and video can be found on the ILAC and IAF websites.

Research and case studies on the benefits of accreditation are available on the Public Sector Assurance and Business Benefits websites. Tying into the theme for WAD 2023, this also includes an article by UKAS Strategic Development Director on the potential role of digital accredited certification in generating confidence in global trade.


[1] https://www.bsigroup.com/globalassets/documents/about-bsi/nsb/cebr/bsi-uk-final-report-1.2-apr22.pdf

[2] https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/covid19_e/covid19_e.htm

[3] https://www.cips.org/about-us/news/Rising-energy-costs-Covid-and-trade-barriers-force-UK-businesses-to-compromise-on-sustainability