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United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Launches Public Review on Digital Product Conformity Exchange


In a significant move towards enhancing global trade transparency and accountability, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) has launched a 60-day public review of the Business Requirements Specification (BRS) on Digital Product Conformity Certificate Exchange. This groundbreaking initiative aims to overhaul the current systems used for exchanging conformity data, which are critical for assessing the safety, quality, and increasingly, the sustainability and social impact of products, ACRS was involved with the BRS providing the views as a conforming assessment body.

Enhancing Market Access Through Digital Innovation

For decades, the basis for market access has rested on testing, inspection, and certification of products. These processes ensure that products meet stringent safety and quality standards before they reach end users. However, with new demands from governments, regulators, and consumers – including areas such as, whole-of-life carbon accounting - there is a pressing need to enhance data validation and discovery throughout the supply chain.

The existing systems for conformity data exchange have obvious drawbacks. Paper or PDF certificates that do not update automatically, vulnerability to false data connections, questionable rigor in some conformity assessments, and issues surrounding the sensitivity of data, all contribute to an opaque and inefficient system. These challenges impede the transparency necessary in today’s digital and globalised trade environment, particularly in the steel industry.

Proposed innovations of the BRS

The BRS proposes a robust data model designed to encode key conformity assessment elements, enabling automated verification. This model is versatile enough to either deliver comprehensive verification or be implemented incrementally, reflecting the gradual digitalisation of supply chains. Notably, this system can function regardless of whether the underlying verifications - be they certificates or reports - are digitised or even directly accessible.

The BRS also outlines a platform-independent mechanism for interoperable data access and exchange, rooted in open standards and aligned with UN/CEFACT recommendations. This approach is set to revolutionise how conformity data is shared across borders, facilitating smoother and more reliable trade.

Impact on digital trade and Conformity Assessment Bodies (CABs)

This BRS is not just a technical guideline but a foundational element for broader initiatives such as digital product passports and digital trade single windows. These initiatives are part of a larger effort to digitise and streamline global trade processes, making them more efficient and less susceptible to fraud.

 Importantly, the new system empowers conformity assessment bodies (CABs), such as ACRS to maintain control over the integrity of their data. By enabling CABs to address their customers' needs more effectively, the BRS supports a dynamic environment where both compliance and customer satisfaction are enhanced.

 Alignment with ACRS Cloud in Australia

In line with these international efforts, the ACRS Cloud, the first digital traceability system of its kind in Australia, provides an excellent example of how national systems can align with global innovations like those proposed in the BRS. 

ACRS Cloud aims to centralise and digitise certification data, improving accessibility and verification processes. This system mirrors the objectives of the BRS by emphasising automated and interoperable data exchanges, enhancing the reliability and transparency of conformity assessments across the supply chain. 

By adopting similar principles to those outlined in the BRS, ACRS Cloud not only advances Australia's digital trade capabilities but also aligns seamlessly with global standards proposed by the UNECE.

Public Review and Participation

The UNECE has invited stakeholders from various sectors, including steel manufacturers, regulators, trade facilitators, and technology experts, to participate in the public review of this critical document. The 60-day review period is an opportunity for these stakeholders to provide feedback, ensuring that the final specifications meet the diverse needs of global trade participants.

As the world moves towards more integrated and digital trade environments, initiatives like this from the UNECE are crucial in paving the way for a more sustainable and accountable global market, including in the steel industry.   We are accelerating into a future where exchanging digital conformity data is the norm, not the exception. 

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