SA 8000:2014 standard as a tool supporting CSR policy

What is Social Accountability International?

SA 8000

Social Accountability International (SAI) is a non-governmental organization, working to improve the conditions of employment, through the development and implementation of standards in the field of CSR. SAI is headquartered in New York City, but their activity leads worldwide. Operational activity of SAI began in 1997 on the basis of the Council on Economic Priorities. SAI brings together various stakeholders interested in the subject of corporate social responsibility, such as multinational corporations, private companies, institutions and non-governmental organizations. In cooperation with these stakeholders SAI supports organizations in achieving the highest quality of CSR activities through training, implementation of strategic programs (among others: Social Fingerprint®, TenSquared or WE Programme for China) and development of SA 8000 standard.

The standard SA 8000:2014 – basic Information

One of the main activity of Social Accountability International is a development and training in the field of social responsibility standard SA 8000.
The first edition of the standard was founded in 2001 and was the world’s first editable standard for social responsibility. The current – fourth edition of the standard was released in 2014 (first edition was released in 1997). Its aim is to establish uniform requirements for the organizations, which take into account workers’ rights, working conditions and an effective management system. The standard requires the use of not only the provisions of national law regarding working conditions, but is also based on international documents on human rights and conventions of the International Labour Organization.
SA 8000 standard is designed in a way, which enables its implementation by any organization and allows to undertake an independent audit conducted by a certification body. These audits are carried out on the basis of the accreditation conferred by Social Accountability Accreditation Services (SAAS). In Poland certification audits accredited by SAAS are carried out, eg. by Bureau Veritas Polska, TÜV Rheinland Polska or SGS Polska.

The main goal  of SA 8000:2014 standard is to protect workers’ rights and compliance with legal requirements as well as other requirements applicable. Continuous improvement of the implemented management system results in the ability to prevent nonconformities and implementation of corrective actions as if they nevertheless occur. As a result, apart from the obvious benefits for the employees, an organization acting on the basis of the requirements of the standard, achieves a number of benefits, including effective management system based on risk assessment.
Currently more than 3,800 companies and institutions in nearly 70 countries are certified to the requirements of SA 8000. More than 2 million workers are employed in these companies.

Requirements of SA 8000:2014 standard

SA 8000:2014 standard consists of four main chapters:
1. Introduction
2. Normative elements and their interpretation
3. Definitions
4. Social accountability requirements

SA 8000 sAs a part of the implementation process it is necessary to refer not only to the requirements contained in chapter four. For a proper understanding of the concept of the system and correct application of the definition used in the fourth chapter, ‘in-depth reading’ of the first three chapters of the standard is necessary. This will help to avoid misunderstanding arising from misinterpretation of terms such as: children and child labour, living wage or personnel of the organization.
Chapter four of SA 8000:2014 standard contains number of requirements, which successful implementation will entitle the organization to apply for SA 8000 certification.

Although there is no formal distinction between the following areas, among the requirements of the standard two groups can distinguished:

  1. Requirements for social responsibility in subsection 4.1 to 4.8
  2. Requirements for the management system in subsection 4.9

In terms of social responsibility in section 4.1 to 4.8 the standard indicates following requirements:

  • Child labour – it is necessary not to support or engage in child labour. The organization should also be prepared for any case of detection of child labour among its staff and staff of its suppliers and subcontractors;
  • Forced or compulsory labour – it is necessary to take all possible measures to ensure, that the organization does not support or engage in the use of forced labour, understood as all work or services that are not offered by a person voluntarily and to the pursuit of which the person is forced under threat of punishment or retaliation or performance demanded from the person, as a form of repayment of the debt;
  • Health and Safety – it is necessary to make every effort to ensure a safe and healthy working environment and take actions to prevent potential accidents and injury to health of personnel (as defined – “personnel” is not only workers of the company, but also the contract staff – for example security guards, canteen staff workers or cleaners);
  • Freedom of association and right to collective bargaining – respecting the right of employees to freedom of association and the possibility to negotiate a collective agreement;
  • Discrimination – ensuring that decisions about employment, remuneration, training, promotion, termination of work and retirement are based solely on objective criteria and qualifications and are not related to race, national or territorial or social origin, caste, birth, religion, disability, gender, sexual orientation, family responsibilities, marital status, union membership, political opinions, age or any other condition that could give rise to discrimination;
  • Disciplinary practices – it is necessary to make every effort to ensure that all staff members are treated with dignity and respect, and the company does not apply mental or physical coercion, and is free from verbal abuse of personnel;
  • Working hours – it is required to comply with all applicable laws regarding working hours, overtime and public holidays. The standard further requires, inter alia, that in no case shall the working hours exceed 48 hours a week (not including overtime);
  • Remuneration – the standard requires to give workers appropriate living wages. All wages and benefits should be paid to employees in a way convenient for them, and information on individual accounts should be available to employees. “Living wage” paid for a regular working week, according to the standard, is the remuneration sufficient to provide a decent quality of living for a worker and his or her family. Elements of a decent quality of life is: food, water, housing, education, health, transport, clothing and other basic needs, including the provision for unforeseen events. “Living wage” should not be identified unambiguously with the minimum wage, according to national regulations.

In terms of social responsibility in subsection 4.9 “Management system” the standard includes a number of system requirements in areas, such as:

  • Policies, Procedures and Records
  • Social Performance Team
  • Identification and Assessment of Risks
  • Monitoring
  • Internal Involvement and Communication
  • Complaint Management and Resolution
  • External Verification and Stakeholder Engagement
  • Corrective and Preventive Actions
  • Training and Capacity Building
  • Management of Suppliers and Contractors

It should be noted, that many of the requirements of Chapter 4.9 can be deployed in an integrated way with other formal management systems, such as ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001.
The document supporting the implementation and certification of the standard SA 8000:2014 is called “Performance Indicator Annex”. The purpose of this document is to increase the transparency of the requirements of the standard and improve the consistency of their interpretation. It can be used by all entities involved in the process – by organizations and certification bodies.

SA 8000:2014 audit procedure

Accredited certification audits in terms of SA 8000:2014 are conducted basing on the standard “SAAS Procedure 200:2015”. It is a set of requirements for accredited certification bodies. Standard was created as a result of cooperation between the SAI and SAAS. Importantly, this standard is based on the principles and requirements for certification bodies contained in the standard ISO / IEC 17021-1: 2015.

SA 8000 dsThe process of certification of SA 8000:2014 system should start with a decision not only about the will, but also about the readiness for certification of the company. As part of the certification process not only the principles of the system contained in the internal documentation will be examined, but also its effective implementation. This requires the passage of a reasonable time after the implementation of organizational solutions contained in the developed system documents, training of personnel and the implementation of monitoring activities (for example internal audits and management reviews) and improvement activities (for example through corrective action when non-compliances occur). Requirements for certification bodies, contained in the standard “SAAS Procedure 200:2015”, relating to the planning and implementation of the audit process in terms of SA 8000:2014 are very detailed, so below you can find only basic information in this regard. The standard contract for the SA 8000:2014 certification is concluded for a period of three years. However the number of audits, which in this period are implemented, is different than in other formal, for example ISO standards. There are six audits during that timeframe, including at least one unannounced audit. Moreover, prior to the certification audit it is necessary to carry out the organization’s self-assessment, with the use of the “Social Fingerprint® Self-Assessment” tool.

The certification audit is carried out in two stages:

– during the first stage of the audit the auditor becomes generally familiarized with the organization and its infrastructure, reviews the documentation and interviews key personnel. The aim of the first stage of the audit is to confirm the organization’s readiness for certification and to gather data to prepare a plan for the second stage of the audit;

– purpose of the second stage of the audit is to confirm compliance with the requirements of the standard and other – applicable requirements, through in-depth familiarization with the organization and its infrastructure, review of documentation and interviews with personnel (those are carried out as individual interviews and group interviews – the number of employees and the duration of interviews is strictly regulated by requirements “SAAS Procedure 200:2015”) and managers.

As part of the audit and after that – on yearly intervals, the certification body also conducts an independent evaluation with the use of “Social Fingerprint®” tool, comparing the results obtained with the self-assessment made by the organization.

 Social Fingerprint® as part of the certification process, the SA 8000: 2014

Social Fingerprint® is a tool which supports organizations in evaluating and improving their management system effectiveness in the field of social responsibility. With the use of an on-line tool, any organization can make a self-assessment in the context of issues of social responsibility, indicating the level of maturity of its management system in the areas corresponding to the requirements of the standard SA 8000:2014 – Section 4.9 “Management systems”.
Answering a series of questions gives organizations the opportunity to obtain a final assessment of the maturity of the management system on a scale of 1 to 5:

  • rating of “5” – means that the organization has established and implemented a mature management system, which is continuously improved;
  • rating of “4” – means that the organization has established management system that has been implemented consistently and regularly;
  • rating of “3” – means that the organization has established a management system that has not been fully implemented;
  • rating of “2” – means that the organization has partly established management system, but its implementation is reactive, inconsistent and largely ineffective;
  • rating of “1” – means that the organization has no awareness of SA 8000, or there is no system for the management of issues of social responsibility in place.

Clear benefits from the use of tools Social Fingerprint® is the possibility of self-assessment and thus identification of areas for improvement. This makes it easier to prepare yourself for the audit, pointing out the parts of the system, where ineffectiveness can lead to negative recommendation from the certification body auditor. It should also be noted that conducting Social Fingerprint® Self-Assessment by the organization is one of the stages of the certification process. As part of this process an independent assessment by the certification body auditors is conducted. Comparison of the results of these assessments can be an interesting experience for everyone, saying a lot about what they think about themselves, and what is the objective evaluation of their actions in relation to  CSR management system issues. Also worth emphasizing is the fact, that the “Social Fingerprint®” allows you to make not only the Self-Assessment (mandatory as part of the certification process), but within the project “The Social Fingerprint® Supply Chain Management Rating System” allows you to benchmark with other companies and institutions.

SOLID CONSULTING services for the implementation, auditing and improvement of the system.

SOLID CONSULTING offers you support in the implementation of social accountability system according to the standard SA 8000:2014 as well as a range of supporting services, such as internal audits, training and other management system improvement related activities.

We invite you to contact us:

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