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SA8000:2014 Social Accountability Certification

About SAI

SAI stands for Social Accountability International.

It is a non-governmental, international, multi-stakeholder organisation dedicated to improving workplaces and communities by developing and implementing socially responsible standards. Its headquarters is situated in New York, USA.

SAI convenes key stakeholders to develop consensus-based voluntary standards, conducts cost-benefit research, accredits auditors, provides training and technical assistance, and assists corporations in improving social compliance in their supply chains.

In 1997, SAI launched SA8000 (Social Accountability 8000) – a voluntary standard for workplaces, based on ILO and UN conventions – which is currently used by businesses and governments around the world and is recognised as one of the strongest workplace standards.

SAI partners with trade unions, local NGOs, multi-stakeholder initiatives, organic, fair trade, and environmental organisations, development charities, and anti-corruption groups to carry out research, training and capacity-building programs.


SA8000 standard

SA8000:2014 is an auditable standard for a third-party verification system, setting out the voluntary requirements to be met by employers in the workplace, including workers’ rights, workplace conditions, and management systems.


Who can apply ?

Any legal entity can apply for SA8000 certification. Manufacturers, Service Organizations, Trading Houses, Banks, Hospitals, Educational Institutions, Government Agencies, etc. are eligible to apply.


Benefits of SA8000 certification

Many large organizations such as TESCO, WalMart, etc. have decided to clean-up their supply chain by asking their suppliers (especially those from developing nations and third world countries) to demonstrate their corporate social responsibility. They prefer to do business with SA8000:2014 certified suppliers. As such, getting an opportunity to do business with big business houses is the prime benefit.

Some of the other benefits of SA8000 certification are:

  • Systems approach to Social Accountability commitment
  • Clarity in definition of Social Accountability related authorities and responsibilities
  • Improvement in employee-employer relationship, safe and healthy workplace environment, and better compliance with labour laws
  • Better documentation and traceability to root causes of worker and workplace related issues
  • Reduction in the need for multiple assessments (by customers)
  • Use of recognized mark (of certifying agency) on letterheads etc., and
  • Enhanced corporate image and market positioning.


Steps involved in SA8000 certification

The steps involved in any SA8000 certification project are the following:

  • Gap Analysis: Detailed assessment of existing social accountability management practices vis-a-vis SA8000:2014 requirements.
  • Initial Review and Planning: Review of findings of gap analysis by Senior Management, identification of applicable legal and other requirements, and planning for SA8000:2014 implementation.
  • System Documentation: Preparation of manuals, forms, campaign posters, etc.
  • System Implementation: Implementation of the system as per manuals.
  • Company-wide Training: Training on SA8000:2014 requirements, employment benefits, familiarization of SA procedures, SA internal audit, etc.
  • SA Internal Audits: Periodic assessment of system implementation status and corrective / preventive actions on audit findings.
  • Pre-assessment: Initial assessment by Certifying agency, and corrective actions by applicant organization.
  • Final Assessment: Detailed assessment by the Certifying agency and recommendation for certification.


Major cost elements

There are three major cost elements in any SA8000 project:

  1. Cost of ensuring health and safety at workplace, and the cost incurred in providing employment benefits and miminum wages / living wages to workers that they are legally entitled to.
  2. Cost of training resources / fee to be paid to external consultants.
  3. Fee to be paid to the certifying agency.

The above costs depend on the size and complexity of operations of the applicant company.


Choosing a consultant

Before deciding on your SA8000 consultant, consider the following:

Formal Qualifications: 

As in the case of medical / financial services, look for formal qualifications. At its minimum level, he / she must have a graduate / post-graduate degree in Industrial Engineering / Labour Laws / Business Administration (Human Resources specialization) with adequate exposure to handling of worker related issues. Apart from SA8000 requirements, your consultant must also be aware of the local statutory and regulatory requirements (such as the Factories Act and Rules, Minimum Wages Act, Payment of Wages Act, Employee State Insurance Act, Provident Fund Act, Fire Safety Rules, etc.). Consultants with industrial engineering / social science background are far more suitable than those with some other educational background.

Relevant Experience:

Your SA8000 consultant should have the experience of handling atleast one or two SA8000 projects independently or as the principal consultant. Avoid those with long experience in other fields and little exposure to SA8000.

Professional Ethics:

Do not sign-up those SA8000 consultants who claim to represent a particular certifying agency and/or offer package deals. Also, do not go with those who assure you the SA8000 certification within ridiculously short time span (say, thirty days). When you expose your personnel to such unethical people during project implementation, it would cause irrepairable damage to your organizational culture and jeopardize the continuation of SA8000 certification itself.

Please keep in mind that SA8000 is not a very complex issue, and, any organisation (big or small) with genuine commitment to social accountability and worker welfare can achieve it.

Willingness to help in documentation:

Your SA8000 consultant should prepare first draft of at least the SA Policy Manual, SA Procedures, and Standard Forms for SA record keeping. This would help in quick implementation of the system.

Support till certification:

Get firm commitment from your consultant that he / she shall provide support till your company gets certified.


Choosing a certifying agency

This is also very important. Usually, your SA8000 consultant suggests some reputed names. But, do not forget to ask your friends in the industry and verify the credibility of the certifying agency. As SA8000 is more relevant in contractual situations, your customer can be well aware of the standard of certifying agencies.

Also, you must insist on signing the service agreement between the Certifying Agency and the Organization applying for certification and pay the audit fees directly to the Certifying Agency. Reputed certifying agencies do not sign-up or bill via a third party like a consulting / accounting / manpower placement agency.

Another point is regarding recognition of certification. In case your buyers are from a different country, it is better to select an auditing agency well recognized in the buyers' country.

Cost is yet another factor. Due to competition, certification fee has come down to affordable levels now. However, there can be hidden costs like cost of flying down an auditor from a remote location. In that case, hidden cost can be very substantial. Always go for a credible agency with sufficient number of auditors stationed locally.

Bureau Veritas Certification, Det Norske Veritas AS, Intertek Testing Services, SGS, and TUV are some of the reputed SA8000 certifying bodies operating globally.


Useful SA8000 resources

The following products and services could be helpful in understanding the requirements, developing the system documents, implementing the system, and getting the coveted SA8000:2014 certification:

  1. SA8000:2014 Awareness Training Kit (Product Codes: M0016A / M0016B)
  2. SA8000:2014 Implementation Kit (Product Codes: M0056A / M0056B)
  3. Management System Audit Training Kit (Product Codes: M0005A / M0005B)
  4. Project eConsulting Service for SA8000:2014 Certification (Service Codes: C0027 / C0028)

Please visit our eShop to know more about these resources and to purchase them right away.

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