A study of the certification market in the Northern European service sector.
Today, the service sector accounts for more than 2/3 of economic activity in most European countries. However, there is relatively little trade in services across national boundaries. The certification of services has the potential to become an important mechanism for assuring the quality both of the services themselves, and thus also the trade in these services.
Studies of the certification schemes within the tangible goods sector conclude that the market for certification and marking in Europe is confused. It is often necessary to repeat certification of the same product in several countries, which involves trade barriers and extra costs for producers (especially SMEs). This also leads to confusion among consumers and less transparency in the markets.
The need for certification has been fully recognized by the EU and has been implemented in EU policy by means of the Services Directive, cf. Article 26 (1a).
In realising the huge potential for growth in services, the potential risk of negative effects as a result of certification schemes at national level etc. is also significant for the service sector. Consequently, precautionary measures designed to prevent a similar situation developing in the service sector should be implemented.
In order to obtain a better overview and understanding of the market for certification schemes in the service sector, this study identifies national certification schemes and examines whether new schemes are developing and the nature of these schemes. The scope of the study includes the Nordic countries and their neighbours including the Baltic States, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK.
The number and level of proliferation of certification schemes directed towards the service sector is still relatively limited. However, the proportion of certificates issued to service sector businesses is growing, and the certification of services is expected to play an increasingly prominent role in the service sector in the future. There is already a tendency towards confusion within the market in relation to environmental certification due to the existence of the great diversity of environmental labelling governed by different requirements and interpretations.
To avoid the inefficient use of certificates in the service sector, it is important that coordinating measures are implemented. The authorities will have a potentially important role to play in this respect.
This report has been prepared by MENON Business Economics for the Nordic Innovation Centre, and contains a study of the certification market directed towards the Northern European service sector.
The study is a part of the project “Nordic platforms for better trade in services” initiated by the Nordic Innovation Centre.