IFOAM - Organics International has played a key role in the harmonization of the ICS concept in the 90s and in early 2000.
In 2003, IFOAM - Organics International submitted to the EU a Position on Smallholder Group Certification for Organic Production and Processing. The position showed the consensus reached by the organic sector globally on the ICS requirements and resulted in the EU accepting group certification essentially with the requirements developed within the IFOAM - Organics International process. The process included 3 international workshops in 2001, 2002 and 2003. The proceedings of this series of workshop is available here.
In 2004, IFOAM - Organics International published the results of its ICS global harmonization work in the form of the IFOAM - Organics International training kit on ICS for smallholder group certification. These materials are still a key resource today for anybody involved with the group certification topic. Please find all materials below.
The 2003 position said that “there may be a number of other situations [than developing countries] where group certification concepts may be relevant and applicable, and we would like in a nearby future also to have a dialogue on these issues”. This happened starting in 2005 with the initiation of a pilot program on “ICS in the North”. A workshop was followed by a pilot project (2006-2008) involving groups and CBs 4 European countries.
In 2008, IFOAM - Organics International organized a debate at the Organic World Congress (OWC), around the topic “Group Certification, who should be eligible?” This debate gathered input from the European pilot project, and from ongoing discussion in the US about group certification acceptance and scope at that time. Read more about the OWC discussion paper here and the debate background and outcome here.
In 2007 and 2008, IFOAM - Organics International was involved in advocacy activities towards the NOSB who were challenging the acceptance of group certification in the US system. This resulted in the maintenance of the allowance of group certification.
In 2015 IFOAM - Organics International provided comments to the consultant developing ICS guidelines for the Sound and Sensible Certification Projects of the USDA.
In autumn 2018, the Swiss Research Institute for Organic Agriculture (FiBL) conducted an extensive study on the scale, achievements and outlook of group certification, with IFOAM - Organics International as a project partner. Based on a stakeholder survey and expert interviews, the study examined the importance and implementation of existing group certification. It identified a need for some additional guidance and strengthening of selected criteria in order to ensure consistent and reliable implementation of the concept worldwide. The study was presented at the Biofach Nuremberg Fair in February 2019 with IFOAM - Organics International as co-host of the session.
Following the publication of the new EU organic regulation in May 2018, the EU Commission started to develop further guidance for group certification, which will allow group certification also within the EU.
In spring 2019 IFOAM - Organics International launched a multi-stakeholder process to the refine group certification requirements. The objective was to develop a position to the EU Commission and to serve as a basis for a future revision of the IFOAM Accreditation Requirements. A a first step an online expert survey was carried out in April 2019.
In May 2019 IFOAM - Organics International organized an International Workshop on Organic Group Certification Requirements. Participants included representatives of the EU Commission, IFOAM EU, of the biggest control bodies certifying producer groups world-wide, producer group representatives, IOAS, ISEAL and selected other voluntary sustainability standards. The workshop brought key organic stakeholders together to discuss and further strengthen the requirements for organic group certification after more than 15 years of implementation all over the world. It discussed the outcome of the expert survey and proceeded to make concrete recommandations on desirable group certification requirements. The workshop report is accessible here.
In July 2019 IFOAM - Organics International launched a consultation process on its draft position paper to the EU Commission on the requirements for group certification in the new EU Organic Regulation. The IFOAM position was revised with the input for the consultation and submitted to the EU commission and the members states as input in the EU organic Regulation Revision process in November 2019.
In August 2020 the EU Commission published a call for public consultation on the group certification requirements of the draft new EU Regulation. IFOAM - Organics International published a short brief as a guidance for stakeholder responding to the call.