4C Certification · How to obtain a 4C Certificate

Join the 4C Certification Process - Step by Step

How to obtain a 4C Certificate

To receive and maintain a 4C Certificate, three main stages are required.

1. Preparation for Certification

Check compliance of all Business Partners with the 4C System requirements and confirm the exclusion of non-conformities with major checkpoints in the 4C Unit.

Step 1. Organisation of a 4C Unit

  • Managing Entity (ME): Study the 4C System requirements
  • ME: Take responsibility for a group of farmers, or the 4C Unit
  • ME: Identify all participants of the 4C Unit, including coffee producers and all other elements of the supply chain that will be handling the coffee cherries or dried beans, originating from the identified producers. Participants are called Business Partners (BPs)
  • ME: Communicate to all BPs the requirements of the 4C System
  • ME: Obtain the acceptance of participation in the 4C Unit by all BPs
  • ME: Internally analyse the compliance level of all BPs and the ME with the 4C requirements and identify needs for improvement
  • ME: Implement the principles of the 4C Code of Conduct within the 4C Unit and confirm the exclusion of non-conformities with major checkpoints in the 4C Unit

2. Certification Process

4C certification process starts with the application before an actual audit takes place and the certificate can be issued. A compliance audit must be carried out by a 4C Cooperating Certification Body.

Step 2. Application for a 4C Audit

  • ME: Select and contract one of the Certification Bodies (CBs) cooperating with 4C 
  • ME: Fill in the application documents and send them to the selected CB
  • CB: Evaluate and approve the application documents
  • CB: Register the application in the 4C Portal
  • ME: Accept the most current version of the 4C ToU for MEs and confirm the application in the 4C portal
  • 4C: Validate the application in the 4C portal
  • CB: Conduct a risk assessment, define a sample size, and select a sample for audit
  • CB: Prepare and register the audit plan, and upload the GRAS risk assessment report in the 4C portal
  • 4C: Acknowledge the reception of the audit plan

Step 3. Conduction of a 4C Audit

  • CB: Audit MEs‘ and BPs´ compliance with the 4C requirements on-site during the harvest season, using the latest version of the pertinent 4C documents
  • CB: Prepare the audit report by inserting the results in the audit checklist and audit result page
  • ME: Work on the elimination of any non-conformities with major check-points revealed during the audit within the timeframe provided by the CB
  • CB: Conduct a desk-audit or further on-site audit to confirm the compliance of the BPs and ME and update the audit result page accordingly
  • CB: Make a certification recommendation
  • CB: Upload the audit report into the 4C portal to automatically generate the Improvement Plan (IP)
  • ME: Fill-in the automatically generated IP and present it to the CB within the timeframe provided by the CB

Step 4. Audit Report Evaluation

  • CB: Evaluate and approve the audit report and IP together with all pertinent documents and pieces of evidence

Step 5. Certification Decision

  • CB: Make a certification decision within the required timeframe of 60 days and upload all pertinent documents and information to the 4C portal
    • In case the decision is positive, issue a certificate to the 4C Unit via the 4C portal. 4C certificate confirms compliance of the certificate holder with the 4C requirements. It is valid for 3 years and may be subject to a surveillance and/or integrity audit at some point during the 3-year compliance level
    • In case the decision is negative, a full new audit must be conducted once the 4C Unit is ready to comply with the 4C requirements
  • 4C: Validate the certification documents internally
  • 4C: Publish the certificate on the 4C website

3. Maintenance of the Certificate

In order to maintain the 4C Certificate,MEs of 4C Units must submit two Annual Updates or AUs (one per year after the Certificate is issued), including submission of the IP to report the implementation progress of planned actions related to good agricultural and management practices. Additionally, MEs of 4C Units must report annually the volumes of coffee traded as 4C compliant coffee through the 4C portal.

Step 6. Continuous Improvement

  • ME: Implement the improvement measures within the 4C Unit stated in the IP within the three-year period of certification, indicating progress each year via the AUs.
  • ME: Monitor compliance performance of the BPs and be able to report this to 4C
  • ME: Measure the results and impact of the improvement activities
  • ME: Annually report to 4C on sales of 4C certified coffee via the 4C portal
  • ME/BPs: Receive surveillance audits or integrity assessments at the office of the ME and the chosen BPs if requested

 

Step 7. Annual Update - End of Year 1

  • ME: Update the Business Partner Map (BPM) and IP
  • ME: Send the updated documents to its contracted CB
  • CB: Evaluate the AU1
  • CB: Make a decision on certificate maintenance and:
    • If positive, upload the AU1 documents to the 4C portal
    • If negative, upload the AU1 documents to the 4C portal and withdraw the certificate via the 4C portal immediately

Step 8. Annual Update - End of Year 2

  • ME: Update the Business Partner Map (BPM) and IP
  • ME: Send the updated documents to its contracted CB
  • CB: Evaluate the AU2
  • CB: Make a decision on certificate maintenance and:
    • If positive, upload the AU2 documents to the 4C portal
    • If negative, upload the AU2 documents to the 4C portal and withdraw the certificate via the 4C portal immediately

Step 9. Application for Renewal for Certificate

  • ME: Restart from Step 1

Definition of a 4C Unit and what to consider

4C compliant coffee is coffee that has been produced in accordance with the 4C Code of Conduct, a set of sustainable practices and principles for the production of green coffee beans. The 4C Code of Conduct applies to any type of producing entity (4C Units) based in any coffee producing country that wish to produce and sell coffee as 4C compliant. The 4C Unit concept is inclusive and covers any type of production facility and/or process (a group of small-scale farmers, a cooperative or a farmers’ association, a collecting station, a mill, a local trader, an export organisation, or even a roaster). There are two prerequisites to qualify as a 4C Unit:

  • Be able to produce and supply a minimum of one container of green coffee (20 tons)
  • Have a person or a group of people (Managing Entity or ME) who can ensure the implementation of the 4C Code of Conduct

In order to receive a 4C Certificate a 4C Unit must comply with the 4C Code of Conduct and adhere to requirements relating to the organisation and management of the Unit in order to sell coffee as 4C Compliant. Additionally, Managing Entities of 4C Units must implement an Internal Management System which ensures that the 4C Code of Conduct and other requirements are properly put into practice by the Managing Entity and all Business Partners within the 4C Unit.

Set of documents to prepare per certification scope

Initial Certification

  • Business Partner Map

Renewal for certificate

  • Updated Business Partner Map
  • Updated Improvement Plan

Addendum

  • Updated Business Partner Map
  • Updated Improvement Plan

Surveillance

  • Improvement Plan
  • Business Partner Map

Annual Update

  • Updated Improvement Plan
  • Updated Business Partner Map

Further Information – Downloads and Links: