It is that time of the month when we acquaint you with our partners, certified companies, and pellet users as part of our initiative The ENplus® Interviews. Today, our guest is Zsuzsa Pavelka from Control Union Certification Germany GmbH.
Hello Zsuzsa, could you present Control Union Certifications Germany GmbH with a few words?
Control Union Certification Germany GmbH was founded as Peterson CU Deutschland GmbH in 2008, coming from a merger between the Berlin based company Agro Öko Consult GmbH (which has its roots in the certification of organic companies), and the Dutch Control Union network (which originated from risk management and inspections of bulk commodities, going back to the early 1920's). We brought expertise and knowledge from 20 years of auditing and certification into this cooperation and in turn brought it into several big markets, such as organic, textile, forestry, and biomass certification.
At the moment, our ENplus® team in Berlin is comprised of myself and my colleague Jonas Brandau, we are the core certification and coordination team, but many more colleagues are involved in liaising with the clients and inspections. We cooperate with sister offices and freelancers in Poland, Russia, Ukraine, Belgium, the Netherlands, the Baltics, USA, and Canada as well as external Inspection Bodies. With 'boots on the ground' in more than 70 countries, Control Union Certifications is uniquely placed to manage challenges of today's global marketplace.
Control Union is a listed Certification Body and Inspection body. Tell us more about your story and experience with ENplus®?
Control Union Certifications Germany has been on board from the very beginning, 2011, as you can see from the picture below of my colleague Jonas at the very first auditors training. We joined because we were already involved in certification standards dealing with biomass and our then managing director was convinced that the scheme would take off and he was correct. Ten years later, there are over 1100 certified companies worldwide and we certify a substantial part of them.
Your auditors implement numerous inspections for the scheme each year, what is the most challenging part of an on-site inspection? How often do you encounter non-conformities? Can you recall an interesting story of a company that has surprised you in a good or bad way?
According to our experienced inspectors Chris Wiberg and Erik Hermans “[t]he most challenging part of an inspection is to determine, on the basis of the available information, whether the system is set up to meet the ENplus® requirements, or whether there are risks that need to be further investigated. Non-conformities should be expected at most sites initially and diminish over time. Even if you have been certified for a while, as personnel changes within a facility, quality practices can change, often resulting in non-conformance where conformance had previously been demonstrated. This is why it is important to continue the inspection process year after year.”
I personally do not have a lot of inspection experience yet, but I do get interesting requests sometimes. A recent one was a company producing pellets out of pine needles wanting to get ENplus® certified. Possible in principle but meeting the quality requirements proved pretty challenging.
Companies that are not yet certified have concerns that the certification process might be slow or too complicated. What would you like to say to these companies?
Generally, the businesses we certify are in it for the long haul. I can’t say that it doesn’t take a lot of work or challenge you with quality practices that are over and above what you are currently accustomed to. However, taking these actions to develop a robust quality management process within your organization will make your on-going operations smoother in the long run and will instill a sense of pride and accomplishment within your organization. When a company has properly set up its system prior to the audit, you see that certification can proceed quickly. Help from a consultant might be helpful.
In your opinion, what is the biggest advantage of the ENplus® certification for the certified companies?
Non-certified producers regularly make quality claims about their products but have no real way to demonstrate their claims are true or to even know themselves that they are living up to their own claims. Certified producers have a third-party process of confirming that their quality goals are achieved, which is demonstrable through their certificate and listing on the ENplus® website. In short, certified producers can move forward with confidence in their product and processes.
Additionally, some companies are really taking advantage of all information they obtain from the management systems they developed to meet the ENplus® requirements by analysing the information to improve not only on quality aspects, but also reliability and cost efficiency.
Looking back and reflecting on all these years, how do you assess the development of the scheme? How did it change the pellet market?
I only got involved in the scheme about 1.5 years ago, so again, I let Chris answer: “It has been a process of constant improvement. I think back to the original drafts that were developed around 2010 and how far the scheme has come today. Back then it was more or less a combination of rudimentary concepts for how to manage wood pellet quality and now it is a global scheme.”