The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic overwhelmed our country at the beginning of the year and its effects on the economy were particularly severe. In a context of great uncertainty, the forecasts for the 2020 GDP in the government’s updated economic/financial statement in October are for a contraction of 9% which would recover only after several years. The restrictions on economic activities introduced to combat the pandemic have had a strong effect on the dynamics of consumption and investment of businesses and households, impacting the finances of entire industries.
In order to analyze the effects of the pandemic on the conformity assessment market, last September Accredia, in collaboration with the German Federal Institute for Research and Testing of Materials (BAM), the Technische Universität of Berlin and the Fraunhofer Institute ISI, conducted a survey of accredited bodies and laboratories in Italy.
The Covid Monitor Survey
The objective of the “Covid Monitor” survey was to verify the impact on the sector of conformity assessments generated by the restrictions on economic activities in March, and to analyze the prospects for recovery with the gradual normalization of the economic situation.
The survey, in which 240 accredited bodies and laboratories took part, investigates the effects of the Covid pandemic on business management and economic results. The economic context is also analyzed in terms of competition and the dynamics of the recovery of demand following the gradual relaxation of restrictions.
In general, about 30% of respondents highlighted a context of greater competition on the part of existing operators, also resulting from the emergence of new competitors. It is above all the certification bodies for management systems and personnel that have been affected by these dynamics. These operators highlighted a greater need for digitalization of internal business processes, also due to the growing demand from clients to carry out audits remotely.
The respondents to the survey are mainly micro-enterprises (53% of the total) and small and medium-sized enterprises (45.2% of the total) equally distributed by type of main activity: conformity assessments are one of the activities; the body or laboratory operates within an organization and conformity assessments are the main activity.
The 180 testing laboratories represent the largest group of survey participants.
The Covid pandemic has had a strong impact on orders, reducing the demand for conformity assessment and negatively impacting the economic accounts of accredited bodies and laboratories. Above all, they are the first to have reported a decrease in demand and, in particular, certification bodies of management systems and inspection bodies.
The respondents of the questionnaire do not see the survival of their business threatened in the short term, but the expectations of recovery following the normalization of the economic situation are generally negative with a high degree of uncertainty. Furthermore, most of the accredited bodies/persons requested state support, mainly by adhering to the redundancy fund to contain personnel costs.
To cope with the economic crisis resulting from the pandemic, one in four operators has strengthened the services offered to clients or has enlarged the scope of those offered. It was above all the certification bodies of persons that expanded the range offered, owing to the greater impact suffered, in terms of lower client demand for certifications.
Nearly half have postponed their investments, while one in ten made additional investments.
Finally, the bodies and laboratories were asked whether the restrictions on economic activities of the first lockdown had an impact on their activities, and if the relaxation of the restrictions in the period September-October had a positive effect: while about 90% of the respondents reported a reduction in their activities following the first lockdown, this percentage dropped to 63% in the current context.