Private standards and certificates
In order to be sold on the European market, products often need to fulfil not only the legal requirements but also requirements as defined in private standards. Having your product certified according to such a standard could give export opportunities but can also involve a high cost.
Private standards are very common in the food industry but also for manufactured products such as textiles.
Following a private standard is voluntary for the producer. However, importing retailers or distributors often ask companies wishing to sell their products in Europe to have their product certified according to a certain standard. To verify that your products live up to specific standards, you need a certifcation through an appointed certification body active in your country.
Private standards are often created to meet consumers' demand for safety, protection of social and human rights in producing countries or the demand for environmentally friendly products.
Examples of private standards
Food: Fair Trade certification, Global G.A.P
How to decide on a standard
Having your product certified according to a standard gives export opportunities but can involve a high cost.
The large number of standards and the specific preferences of buyers in Europe (depending on the countries and the sectors) can pose a challenge for new exporters as it is difficult to know what standards to follow. Before you decide to seek certification for a specific private standard you need to identify the requested standards in your target markets.
There are several ways to go about this:
- Discuss with potential importers which standards they would like your products to fulfil: Private standards can be country or sector specific. Certain standards, such as Global G.A.P. for the certification of agricultural products, are widely used in Europe but some buyers may require other standards based on the local demand. It is important to check with potential business partners what standards they require before going through a certification procedure.
- Use on-line tools to search and identify the standards applicable to your products in the country you wish to export to. The international "sustainability standards map" gives interactive information on standards for environmental protection, labour rights, economic development, quality and food safety as well as business ethics. The sustainability standards map on the International Trade Centre website
- Do your own assessment and seek certification. Once you know what standards to use, you can do a self-assessment to see if your production lives up to the standards. Most standards have a website where they publish the relevant requirements and checklists. You may be able to carry out a self-assessment using the checklists. You should also compare offers from different certification bodies active in your country and contact them for assistance.
Get further support
Find information about the private certifications that Swedish buyers often ask for by exploring our market studies. Open Trade Gate Sweden cannot offer further support on aspects related to private standards as they are a highly individual issue.