Certification body NEPCon OÜ SBP status suspended in Russia

By Katie Fletcher | January 11, 2017

On Jan. 11, Sustainable Biomass Partnership issued a statement that the approval status of NEPCon OÜ, which became an SBP-approved certification body (CB) in September 2015, is suspended in Russia.

On Dec. 1, NEPCon OÜ’s Forest Stewardship Council accreditation for Forest Management and Chain of Custody certification in Russia was suspended by FSC’s accreditation organization, Accreditation Services International. ASI is now in the process of evaluating the response from NEPCon OÜ to the conditions they set to lift the FSC suspension in Russia.

As a result of the FSC suspension in Russia, NEPCon OÜ no longer meets SBP’s requirements, and approval for SBP biomass producer (including supply base evaluation) and supply chain certification for Russia has been suspended effective Jan. 6.

This means that NEPCon OÜ can continue conducting annual SBP audits and reassessments of all organizations that have already been certifed by the certification body in Russia, but they may not enter into new contracts for SBP certification in Russia while suspended. SBP certificaiton in other countries will continue as normal, including taking on new SBP clients.

Once the ASI suspension is lifted and providing the other SBP requirements are still fully met, SBP will be able to lift its suspension, according to SBP.

In addition to FSC, ASI also came into an agreement with SBP to serve as its independent, third-party accreditation body in August. The agreement between ASI and SBP introduces another level of independent, third-party oversight.

“These are very positive changes to SBP and to the SBP system, especially enhancing the independence and credibility of SBP as a robust certification system,” said Carsten Huljus, SBP CEO in an interview with Pellet Mill Magazine. “It gives us the opportunity to focus on our core mission which is to engage with our stakeholders and to manage and to maintain the standards independent from the activities of accreditation and certification.”

Currently, the system is going through a transition period from Aug. 2, 2016 to December 2017, in which SBP-approved CBs will be required to transition to ASI accreditation. This ultimately means that CBs will have to become accredited by ASI if they wish to continue to provide SBP certification services to their clients and prospective clients.

According to Huljus, all six approved CBs have applied for ASI accreditation. If an SBP-approved CB does not become ASI accredited for SBP certification, it will no longer be able to offer SBP certification services beginning Dec. 31. Also, if a CB does not become ASI accredited, their existing SBP certificate holders will need to enter into a working relationship with a new CB that is pursuing or has achieved accreditation by ASI for SBP certification if the biomass producer wishes to remain SBP-certified.

An ASI agreement Q&A is available on SBP’s website.

Editor's note: As of mid-April, all activities at NEPCon have returned to normal, the company reported.