An official complaints process is an important component of any legitimate certification program. SFI’s official complaint process allows individuals or organizations to make a complaint regarding the validity of a certification to the SFI Forest Management Standard, the SFI Fiber Sourcing Standard, or the SFI Chain of Custody Standard. Their complaint will be openly and independently investigated. The process is outlined in Section 11, SFI 2015-2019 Standards and Rules.
A complaint does not challenge the credibility or the content of the SFI Forest Management Standard, the SFI Fiber Sourcing Standard, or the SFI Chain of Custody Standard. Rather, it challenges the audit findings and the decision to grant the certification; or it reports events that have occurred since the last audit that question the maintenance of the certification.
Official Complaints Process:
- The complainant outlines their concerns in a letter to the Program Participant’s certification body.
- The certification body may request additional specifics associated with the concerns, and will investigate the issue in accordance with procedures approved by their accreditation body.
- If the certification body finds a sound basis for the complaint, it will require that the Program Participant take corrective action to address the complaint and advise the complainant accordingly.
- If the certification body does not find a sound basis for the complaint and feels the certification was appropriately granted and performance has not changed since the certification, it will inform the complainant of this.
If the findings of the certification body do not satisfy the complainant, the complainant can appeal to the higher authority, which is the body that accredited the certification body. This is either the ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board (ANAB), the Standards Council of Canada (SCC), or the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). The accreditation body will then conduct its own investigation into the complaint.
In the event of litigation between the complainant and Program Participant, the complaint process shall be suspended pending resolution of the litigation. It shall be restarted once the litigation is resolved if SFI nonconformity issues remain.
Complaints Process Related to On-Product Label Use
Anyone with information or claims about the practices of an SFI Program Participant or label user, or about a Program Participant’s label use regarding the requirements of Section 5 (Rules for Use of SFI On-Product Labels and Off-Product Marks), SFI 2015-2019 Standards and Rules, may seek to have those claims investigated as follows:
- The complainant outlines their concerns in a letter to the certificate holder or label user.
- Within 45 days, the certificate holder or label user shall respond to the complainant, and forward a copy of the complaint and response to its certification body.
- The certification body shall investigate the validity of the complaint based on the seriousness of the complaint, and respond no later than the next annual surveillance audit.
- If the complainant is not satisfied, they may provide the original documentation and response to the SFI Office of Label Use and Licensing, which shall investigate and respond within 45 days.
After reviewing the information, the SFI Office of Label Use and Licensing may:
- Seek more information.
- Find the complaint is without merit and no further action is required;
- Find that corrective actions are necessary;
- Suspend the label licence if the certificate holder or label user fails to take corrective action or if no action would be sufficient to remedy the situation.