Certification is the process by which individual companies (factories, farms and other workplaces) and organizations undergo assessment by a third-party auditor. If the company meets the requirements set out in the standard or code, it can earn a certificate attesting to its compliance. Third-party certification involves an independent assessment declaring that specified requirements pertaining to a product, person, process or management system have been met. Social Accountability International provides tools, information and resources related to the SA8000 Standard on their website. All organizations interested in implementing the SA8000 Standard should visit their website and download the available information.
To certify conformance with SA8000, every facility seeking certification must be audited. Thus auditors will visit companies and assess corporate practice on a wide range of issues and evaluate the state of a company’s management systems, necessary to ensure ongoing acceptable practices. Once an organization has implemented any necessary improvements, it can earn a certificate attesting to its compliance with SA8000.
SA8000 Certification Process
An organization seeking certification to SA8000 must apply to a certification body.
Once an organization has implemented any necessary improvements to meet the requirements in the Standard, it can earn an SA8000 certificate attesting to its compliance. Certification lasts for three years, with a series of required surveillance audits throughout the three year period. Surveillance audits consist of ongoing periodic review of the certified organization's social management system to ensure continuous improvement in meeting the Standard. The SA8000 audit process is conducted in accordance with the requirements found in SAAS Procedure 200 and ISO 17021. Please visit the SAAS document library to review the SA8000 audit process requirements.
Maintaining and improving the systems put in place to achieve SA8000 certification is an ongoing process and substantive worker participation can be the best means to ensuring systemic change. The benefits of adopting SA8000 are significant and may include improved staff morale, more reliable business partnerships, enhanced competitiveness, less staff turnover and better worker-manager communication.
The average length of time for the certification process varies depending on the readiness of the facility to meet the requirements of SA8000. The audit process is a 2-stage audit process - the first stage is generally for scoping and planning the certification audit and for the CB to further understand the organization. The second stage of the audit is an objective assessment of compliance practices against the SA8000 requirements.
If corrective actions are issued as a result of the audit, additional time will be needed to put additional procedures in place to correct those processes that need correcting. These corrective actions will need to be verified as effective. Major corrective actions must be cleared with evidence in place before certification may be granted. Therefore, the amount of time needed between applying to be certified and becoming certified could vary between several months and several years. Many of the facilities that become SA8000 certified do also have various ISO certifications. This means that these facilities have already implemented a management system, which is also necessary in the implementation of SA8000.
This SA8000 certification provides a report of good practice to consumers, buyers, and other companies and is intended to be a significant milestone in improving workplace conditions. Once certified, organizations can display their certificate. However, individual products cannot be labeled as the certification represents a workplace process, not a product certification.
SA8000 Unannounced Surveillance Audits
SAAS auditing policy requires that all SA8000 clients have a minimum of one unannounced audit in any three year certification cycle conducted by the Certification Body. In September 2009, SAAS drafted and released a guidance document to the CBs on the expectations and framework for such audits based upon experience and questions regarding the scope and procedures for such audits. SAAS will continue research into the value and methods of utilizing unannounced audits in the certification process.