SA 8000 Certification

SA 8000 Certification

SA8000 is a global social accountability standard for decent working conditions, developed and overseen by Social Accountability International (SAI).

Rising public concern about inhumane working conditions in developing countries led to the creation in 1997 of the Council on Economic Priorities Accreditation Agency. Its purpose was to draw up a universal code of practice for labor conditions in manufacturing industry, so that consumers in developed countries could be confident that the goods they were buying - in particular clothes, toys, cosmetics and electronic goods - had been produced in accordance with recognized set of standards. At that time, many businesses had already begun to recognize the commercial advantages of adopting an ethical dimension in their employment practices, and were operating their own codes of conduct. However, there was no consensus on what exactly constituted a socially responsible policy. As a result, the myriad codes were inconsistent and poorly audited.

In summer 2000, CEPAA became known as Social Accountability International (SAI), a new entity whose remit was to develop voluntary standards governing soci

al responsibility, and to certify companies that agreed to meet them. The first such standard is SA8000, which governs employees' working conditions. The SA8000 standard for socially responsible employment practices first appeared in 1998 after nearly a year of drafting by the advisory board. It was modeled on the well-established ISO9000 quality standard. However, it is different from ISO 9001:2008

An advisory board comprising 25 experts from a wide range of backgrounds, including businesses, trade unions and non-governmental organizations, drafted the terms of SA8000. Now that the code has been finalized, SAI is overseeing the certification of companies that have expressed a desire to become SA8000-compliant.

Social Accountability 8000 (SA8000) has been developed by Social Accountability International (SAI), known until recently as the Council on Economic Priorities Accreditation Agency. SAI is a non-profit affiliate of the Council on Economic Priorities (CEP). SA8000 is promoted as a voluntary, universal standard for companies interested in auditing and certifying labour practices in their facilities and those of their suppliers and vendors. It is designed for independent third party certification.

SA8000- Demonstration(Certification) Process

The SA8000 provides two separate ways for companies looking forward to demonstrate their commitment to social responsibility. The first way is taking membership. This is designed for businesses that are doing retailing. The organization has to give commitment to do business only with socially responsible suppliers. SA8000 members are offered a self-assessment package and other tools to help them implement a policy on social responsibility. They are expected to notify their suppliers of their intention to implement SA8000 standards, and to set a timeframe for phasing out dealings with companies that fail to meet those requirements. Member companies are also required to produce an annual report describing their SA8000 objectives, and outlining progress that has been made towards those goals. These reports are verified by SAI(Social Accountability International). The second way is certification. It is intended for manufacturers and suppliers themselves. The process is a stringent one, which begins with the company contacting an accredited auditor. Having demonstrated compliance with existing regulations and assessed how current practice compares with the provisions of SA8000, the company is given the status of 'SA8000 applicant'. The business then implements an SA8000 programme, which is scrutinized by a 'pre-assessment audit'. Any improvements that are recommended should be implemented before the formal audit takes place. After the formal assessment, the company is again given the opportunity to rectify any shortcomings, before being assessed again. If at the end of this process the auditors are satisfied that the company is fully compliant, they will recommend an SA8000 certificate, valid for three years.

Benefits of SA8000

Initial evidence indicates that SA8000 certified facilities enjoy a competitive advantage and workers experience concrete benefits as the SA8000 management system and any needed corrective actions are put in place.

Benefits for Workers, Trade Unions and NGOs:

  • 1. Enhanced opportunities to organize trade unions and bargain collectively.
  • 2. A tool to educate workers about core labor rights.
  • 3. An opportunity to work directly with business on labor rights issues.
  • 4. A way to generate public awareness of companies committed to assuring humane working conditions.

Benefits for Business:

  • 1. Drives company values into action.
  • 2. Enhances company and brand reputation.
  • 3. Improves employee recruitment, retention and productivity.
  • 4. Supports better supply chain management and performance.

Benefits for Consumers and Investors:

  • 1. Clear and credible assurance for ethical purchasing decisions.
  • 2. Identification of ethically made products and companies committed to ethical sourcing.
  • 3. Broad coverage of product categories and production geography.

SA8000 Elements

  • 1. Child Labor: No workers under the age of 15; minimum lowered to 14 for countries operating under the ILO Convention 138 developing-country exception; remediation of any child found to be working
  • 2. Forced Labor: No forced labor, including prison or debt bondage labor; no lodging of deposits or identity papers by employers or outside recruiters
  • 3. Health and Safety: Provide a safe and healthy work environment; take steps to prevent injuries; regular health and safety worker training; system to detect threats to health and safety; access to bathrooms and potable water
  • 4. Freedom of Association and Right to Collective Bargaining: Respect the right to form and join trade unions and bargain collectively; where law prohibits these freedoms, facilitate parallel means of association and bargaining
  • 5. Discrimination: No discrimination based on race, caste, origin, religion, disability, gender, sexual orientation, union or political affiliation, or age; no sexual harassment
  • 6. Discipline: No corporal punishment, mental or physical coercion or verbal abuse
  • 7. Working Hours: Comply with the applicable law but, in any event, no more than 48 hours per week with at least one day off for every seven day period; voluntary overtime paid at a premium rate and not to exceed 12 hours per week on a regular basis; overtime may be mandatory if part of a collective bargaining agreement
  • 8. Compensation: Wages paid for a standard work week must meet the legal and industry standards and be sufficient to meet the basic need of workers and their families; no disciplinary deductions
  • 9. Management Systems: Facilities seeking to gain and maintain certification must go beyond simple compliance to integrate the standard into their management systems and practices.