Social Accountability 8000 Standard
SA8000 measures social performance in eight areas important to social accountability in workplaces, anchored by a management system element that drives continuous improvement in all areas of the Standard. It is appreciated by brands and industry leaders for its rigorous approach to ensuring the highest quality of social compliance in their supply chains, all the while without sacrificing business interests.
The Standard reflects labor provisions contained within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions. It also respects, complements and supports national labor laws around the world, and currently helps secure ethical working conditions for two million workers.
Regular revisions ensure the Standard’s continuing applicability in the face of new and emergent social and human rights issues. Organizational buyers, independent codes of conduct, and private sector initiatives have all recognized SA8000’s multi-sector applicability and responded to growing public interest by integrating SA8000 criteria into their compliance processes. Similarly, governments wishing to encourage and strengthen social performance in the workplace have created incentive programs specifically recognizing companies with an accredited SA8000 certification.
In addition to publishing SA8000 and supporting documents, SAI offers a wide selection of resources to help organizations maintain and continually improve their social performance, including capacity building, stakeholder engagement, collaboration between buyers and suppliers, and the development of tools to ensure continued improvement. SAI views independent accredited certification to the SA8000® Standard as a critical element contributing to the company’s broader objectives of improving global labor conditions.
SA8000:2014 is the current version of the SA8000® Standard. It replaced SA8000:2008 in June 2014. The most significant updates to the Standard as compared to SA8000:2008 are explained here below.
Forced or Compulsory Labor
All organizations certified to SA8000:2014 must now ensure that their workers are free from employment fees and costs.
Health and Safety
All organizations certified to SA8000:2014 must have a Health and Safety Committee consisting of management representatives and workers, which is responsible for monitoring health and safety hazards.
SA8000:2014 places increasing emphasis on the importance of a strong management system. A management system is a set of policies, procedures, and processes that helps an organization integrate the requirements of the SA8000 Standard into its daily operations.
SAI has created a set of tools, called Social Fingerprint®, to help organizations continuously measure and improve their management system. This toolkit includes the Social Fingerprint Self-Assessment and the Social Fingerprint Independent Evaluation, and it measures the organization’s management system in ten areas important to continuous improvement. Social Fingerprint is used to define the maturity level of an organization’s management system on a scale from 1 to 5, and to identify areas for improvement.
- Social Fingerprint® Self-Assessment: Completed by the organization applying for an SA8000 certification, the self-assessment provides a baseline score of the organization’s management system maturity.
- Social Fingerprint® Independent Evaluation: Completed by an accredited certification body, the independent evaluation helps the organization identify strengths and weaknesses in its management system.
Benefits of SA8000 Certification
Earning an accredited SA8000 certificate is an attestation to an organization’s compliance to the SA8000® Standard for three years. An accredited SA8000 certification provides ongoing and reliable assurance that an organization is upholding social performance expectations, while also continuously improving their management systems to address and prevent social and labor risks.
As a voluntary standard, it is central to SA8000 that organizations take ownership of their performance and continuously monitor and improve their own social controls. Independent oversight and regular surveillance audits by approved third-party certification bodies provide confidence that the organization is managing its operations effectively and has a low risk of non-conformities to the Standard.
Some characteristics of an SA8000-certified organization are:
- Holistic management system to maintain compliance to the Standard
- Worker engagement and dialogue
- Cross-functional internal collaboration
- Collaboration in the supply chain
While accredited certification is a valuable tool to evaluate performance and drive supply chain improvement by committing an organization for three years, it is important to recognize that no code or monitoring system can provide absolute assurance or drive positive change alone. All social auditing practices need to be considered as part of a larger effort to improve labor conditions, including equitable contractual cooperation between buyers and suppliers, worker and management training, capacity building, stakeholder engagement, and various other tools to improve systems and collaboration.