Photo of Elias Rafoul and Chantal Guay in front of a graphic of a stylized globe with one human hand and one robot hand holding it.

Bridging innovation and trust: SCC's blueprint to empower global solutions

Joint statement by SCC’s Chantal Guay, CEO and Elias Rafoul, VP Accreditation Services for World Accreditation Day 2024.

As we celebrate World Accreditation Day 2024 with the theme ‘Accreditation: Empowering Tomorrow and Shaping the Future,’ we’re excited to share how the Standards Council of Canada (SCC) is using innovation to tackle some of the world’s biggest challenges. From fighting climate change to embracing digital transformation, we’re driving real-world solutions. We also want to show how we help Canadian businesses succeed globally, both now and in the future.

When we developed the National Standards Strategy in 2022, we spoke with hundreds of people across Canada to learn about their priorities. We heard about some of the biggest challenges we face: mitigating climate change, ensuring ethical AI, and stabilizing supply chains. Standards and accredited conformity assessments are key to tackling these challenges, ensuring that products and services meet rigorous standards. By “checking the checkers,” we help ensure that national and international standards are being met, which builds public trust. Our team’s research also shows that organizations that are certified to quality management systems (ISO 9001) have a positive and statistically significant effect on innovation.

Addressing climate change

Climate change poses very real risks to people and the environment. Extreme weather events like the destructive forest fires in Western Canada, profound changes to Canada’s northern communities and severe flooding across the country are stark reminders that we must take action now. Economic growth that harms our planet is simply not sustainable. 

Accredited conformity assessment plays a crucial role in helping meet everyone’s needs without exceeding our planet’s limits. Verifying and validating claims is a critical area where we are making a big impact. It plays an important role to measure environmental, social and governance (ESG) activities and helps avoid common challenges like inconsistent reporting that make it harder to tell what’s real and what’s “greenwashing.” And as Canada’s representative at ISO and IEC, we coordinate our country’s participation in developing standards, including shaping global ESG standards. Accepted standards and accreditation bring rigour and methodology that go beyond simple disclosure.

That’s why we’ve teamed up with Environment and Climate Change Canada to accredit bodies that verify organizations' applications and reports related to the Clean Fuel Regulations (CFR). The CFR’s goal is to spark innovation in clean technologies and promote the use of low-carbon fuels throughout the Canadian economy.

Driving digital transformation

The rapid pace of technological advancements like artificial intelligence (AI) and other digital technologies can bring another set of global challenges. At the same time, they have the potential to lead to incredible benefits, but only if they’re developed and used responsibly. That’s why we have been leading the charge in setting and applying standards to ensure responsible AI management.

Traditionally, there’s a gap between the development of a standard and the implementation of conformity assessment, often spanning several years. But new technologies like AI are moving at breakneck speed. To keep up, conformity assessment to the ISO/IEC 42001 standard for AI management systems had to be ready much faster after it was published. So, we tried something new: we teamed up with partners to develop and test a conformity assessment program while the standard was still being drafted. This hands-on approach helped us fine-tune our approach and ensure practical applicability sooner than traditional processes allow.

We also launched the AI and Data Governance Standardization Collaborative to tackle AI and data issues on both national and international levels. This group brings together government, industry, civil society, Indigenous organizations, academia, and standards bodies to create a well-rounded approach to AI and data governance.

We didn’t stop there. We’ve been working on another conformity assessment pilot program for digital credentials and digital trust services. After wrapping up the pilot, we’re gearing up for a full-scale program in the next few years to apply these technical specifications consistently. They are expected to become National Standards of Canada, helping to make digital transactions more reliable and secure, and building greater confidence in the digital space.

Supporting Canadian Businesses

Trust is a fundamental component of trading relationships. Using international standards and accredited conformity assessments instills confidence in goods and services, allowing businesses to access a broader international marketplace.  We help Canadian companies reach global markets by building trust in complex supply chains, ensuring safety, reliability and quality.

We also know that small and medium-sized enterprises’ (SMEs) participation in developing standards boosts their chances of exporting. By actively engaging in international standards development, Canada can ensure better alignment between domestic and international standards, making it easier for our small businesses to demonstrate compliance and succeed in global markets. Our research shows that the more we participate in developing these standards, the more we can advocate for the interests of our SMEs. This could help make accredited conformity assessment more accessible to them and open doors for trade.

By participating in the global accreditation network through the International Accreditation Forum (IAF) and the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC), we also help ensure that accredited products and services from Canada are trusted worldwide. As signatories to international mutual arrangements, we undergo peer evaluations. These evaluations ensure that we, as an accreditation body, perform our work competently and align with international best practices.

This international cooperation facilitates smoother trade, reduces duplicative testing and certification, and ultimately supports innovation and economic growth on a global scale. We also help ensure that this system works seamlessly, benefiting businesses, consumers and the environment alike.

Join us in building a better future

Interested in learning more about how accreditation can benefit your organization? Get a quote for our accreditation services and explore how we can support your needs. 

We’re always looking to grow our pool of qualified assessors, inspectors and technical experts. Hired on a contractual basis, they have the flexibility to accept assessment assignments on a case-by-case basis. In addition to compensation for all work associated with assessments, SCC also pays for travel and accommodation. Apply online to join our team.

If you found this article insightful, help us spread the word! Share it with your networks and let others know how standardization can benefit everyone. Together, we can build a brighter, more sustainable future through the power of accreditation and innovation.