Chain of custody (CoC)

The Importance of Traceability

Managing the Chain of Custody (CoC) is indispensible for companies directly active in the supply chain to secure traceability, quality and manage reputation risks.

Various CoC systems are used globally to gain and convey information about the components of products, parts, and materials, as well as their transformation throughout the value chain for food safety, sustainable agriculture or forestry, social compliance in manufacturing and many other sectors.

Various definitions of traceability are causing unnecessary complexities, costs and loss of time resulting in a barrier to market access.


Approval by ISO

The Dutch standards committee has developed a draft for an international standard on CoC requirements to clarify the proposed structure of the standard.

This NEN proposal has met the requirements for approval by ISO – 2/3 approval votes and at least 5 participating members, being Australia, Hungary, Indonesia, Sweden, Thailand, Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Once the ISO project committee has been established we expect more countries to join.

The next step is the official ISO Technical Management Board (TMB) approval to create a new ISO project committee (PC). This topic will be included in the working documents for the September 10th TMB meeting. Given the positive voting result we expect no further delay in the process of setting up the ISO project committee.

Therefore we aim to hold the first international ISO meeting in December 2016. The objective for our next meeting on September 7th will be to
- Take a decision on the Dutch chairman of the ISO committee
- Establish the draft work programme and project leader(s) for 2017
- Organize structural funding for the international ISO work for the coming years

We are looking forward to continue working with the team of multi-sector stakeholders.


The Solution: A Horizontal ISO Chain of Custody Standard

Recognising that the definition of CoC requirements and traceability levels is entirely independent of sectors, raw materials, products and issues addressed, the solution is a horizontal globally applicable ISO CoC standard to which existing systems may refer and on which new systems can base their definition of CoC requirements. Eventually, the result will be a separation of specific requirements in a standard in relation to the subject it covers (e.g. sustainability, source, safety) and generic requirements related to the CoC.

The initiative to formulate this horizontal ISO standard is taken by NEN in close cooperation with the Dutch government and mostly multi-nationally active representatives from private sector companies and industry associations, round tables and certification organisations.

The initiative is strongly supported, also financially, by these players, who are convinced that rolling out a generic ISO CoC standard will effectively reduce complexity, costs and unnecessary use of time.



Interest of CoC to Stakeholders

International standards with harmonized definitions considerably reduce the duplication of work.

A horizontal ISO Chain of Custody standard is an effective solution to the problems that chain actors are faced with today when complying with many different CoC systems/definitions.

Each type of stakeholder has a specific interest in the effect of this solution. We have asked stakeholders on their opinion on CoC:




Retailers who sell consumer products have to dedicate considerable efforts to assess the reliability of chain traceability. Even if only required for a selection of components in a selection of their retail assortment. This has become unnecessarily complex because of the existence of various certification schemes, self-assessments and verification schemes that tend to use mutually conflicting CoC definitions. The result is more paperwork in the company and higher costs than strictly required.

“The objective is to simplify chain of custody compliancy evaluation for the industry as all certification systems will be able to use the generic ISO Chain of Custody standard as a basis” (Leon de Mol, Ahold Delhaize).

Manufacturers and traders

End product manufacturers and traders delivering to manufacturers have to comply with an increasing variety of systems required by their customers, leading to unnecessarily high administrative costs and time investment.

“For members from the Dutch food industry, a CoC standard with unified demands and criteria is of utmost importance. Such standard enhances international trade and diminishes export barriers which are preferred over national legislation different for each country” (Geert de Rooij, FNLI).


Also for investors, a CoC standard has great benefits, since they need to get insight into the supply chain risks of the companies and sectors they invest in.

André Jakobs (ABN AMRO) expects that “companies will have to make their chains of custody transparent within the reporting requirements of the European Commission. This will be applicable for all products, not only commodities (e.g. transparency benchmark Ministry of Economic Affairs)”.


The initiative to formulate this horizontal ISO standard has been taken by NEN in close cooperation with the Dutch government. The complexity and resulting additional costs of various CoC standards are a barrier to market access, especially for smaller companies and developing countries.

Rob Busink (Ministry of Economic Affairs) suggests “to better address the current market demand for increased transparency and the role of the horizontal CoC standard in simplifying market access by a uniform language. This will be relevant especially for involving developing countries in international trade”.

“We support ministries such as the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment and take an advising role when it comes to securing the sustainability of Biomass. In this respect, uniformity is key” (Timo Gerlagh, Netherlands Enterprise Agency).

Certification organizations

There are costs associated with standard setting and certification organizations. When setting up the CoC component, the organisations will not lose valuable time to produce systems and definitions that eventually are almost identical to existing systems.

"We administer a certification scheme for safe and responsible animal food. We are great advocates of standards such as ISO 9001, ISO 22000 and HACCP. A harmonized standard for CoC would be a welcome addition due to the different interpretations on the market" (Sandra de Bruin, GMP+ International).

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  • Independent of sector, raw material and issue
  • Terms and definitions based on ISO language
  • Modular use of related standards
  • Based on available best practices
  • Specific CoC requirements for individual supply chain actors
  • Horizontal and generic benchmark

Dutch stakeholders

By joining a NEN standards committee, you can actively influence and contribute to the process of developing a standard. It also means that you will be the first to know about new developments, you can share and acquire knowledge and you will gain access to a large (international) network.

International stakeholders

The Dutch standards committee has developed a draft for an international standard on CoC requirements to clarify the proposed structure of the standard. This proposal for a new field of work (NP) has been submitted to ISO in April 2016 for a stakeholder consultation by the ISO members (national standardization bodies). In august 2016 this proposal has been approved.

Please contact your national standardization body to get involved or approach NEN for more information.

Proposal for developing a Horizontal ISO Chain of Custody standard


Please contact Juliane Eykelhoff or Ortwin Costenoble

(015) 2 690 326


The following stakeholders support the proposal for developing a generic ISO Chain of Custody standard and are committed to actively participate in the work.

MVO Netherlands Oils & Fats Industry (representing Unilever, Cargill, Wilmar, Agrifirm)

Control Union
Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs
Reinier de Man (Consultant)
RSPO-Round table on Sustainable Palm Oil
Schutter Rotterdam B.V.
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