How can you ensure your supply chain is free of issues like child labor, forced labor, and unfair disciplinary practices?
How do you know that your suppliers in developing countries are compliant with all applicable labor laws?
Imagine working with a supplier that is using child labor and having no idea that it’s occurring until one day, your brand gets dragged through the mud after a revelation that you are associated with a factory engaging in these practices.
Many importers are rightfully concerned about social compliance.
What is social compliance?
Social compliance is a focus on your policies and practices as well as those of your supply and distribution chains to protect the rights, health, and safety of workers.
A social compliance audit is one that is conducted on-site at your supplier’s facilities to ensure they are operating in-line with accepted standards in these areas.
In fact, many retailers like Walmart, Tesco, Lidl, Aldi, Disney, and others actually require them in order to put your products on their shelves.
There are different sets of standards for conducting social audits, but the SA8000 standard is the most prominent one.
What is an SA8000 Audit and How Does it Work? (9 Sections)
An SA8000 audit is a social compliance audit that conducted to verify whether a supplier is operating in line with local labor laws and international norms related to social responsibility.
It is conducted based on the SA8000 standard, which is the “leading social certification standard for factories and organizations across the globe,” established by Social Accountability International.
Let’s talk about the SA8000 requirements which cover 9 different areas of social accountability.
#1 Child Labor
Upon arriving at the facility, one thing the auditor will check for is that all workers are above the age of 16 or the legal working age in the area.
The company should have hiring practices such as identity verification to ensure that no one under the appropriate age is mistakenly hired.
Also, it is important that the working conditions for employees under 18 are suitable and in accordance with local laws.
#2 Forced or Compulsory Labor
The auditor will look for evidence that no documents like ID cards or passports are held without the ability of the worker to retrieve them.
They will also want to see that the facility does not withhold wages, allows freedom of movement, and is free from prisoner employment.
#3 Health and Safety
It is important that health and safety standards are being met, so the auditor will look for documentation of compliance with building safety requirements.
In addition, they will verify whether the facility has non-expired fire safety documentation, is operating in a building that matches its intended purpose, and has documentation of safety inspections for the building and machines.
#4 Freedom of Association
It is important to verify that the employer is respecting the right of all personnel to bargain collectively or, where collective bargaining is restricted, have access to alternate means.
Also, auditors will look for evidence that employees have opportunities to meet with management and air grievances.
Another important area of the audit focuses on discrimination, with checks to ensure that employer practices related to hiring, compensation, access to training, promotion, termination, or retirement are fair to everyone.
In addition, the inspector will aim to verify whether employees are receiving equal pay for equal work when taking their experience and seniority into account.
#6 Disciplinary Practices
One of the goals of the audit is to determine whether employees at the facility are free from harassment as well as mental, physical, and verbal abuse.
It is important that disciplinary measures implemented by the facility are fully in line with the law and are not excessive.
#7 Working Hours
Working hours are another important area covered by the audit. Are employees working regular and overtime hours in accordance with the law? Do they receive rest breaks?
The audit seeks to verify that the employee is also getting an appropriate amount of time off.
It is important that employees are being paid fairly, so the auditor will conduct checks to see if the facility provides adequate wages.
In addition, they will check that the time and frequency of payment are in accordance with the law, that employees are being paid during their probation periods, and that overtime is being paid, as required.
#9 Management System
The management system of the company is also reviewed to ensure that policies are in place for social accountability and subcontractors are being monitored for their practices as well.
Conclusion: Social Accountability Audits Help Importers Check On Supplier Working Conditions
Many importers today are concerned about social accountability in their supply chains.
When working with manufacturers in developing countries, social audits can help companies check on the working conditions at supplier facilities.
Most social audits are conducted based on the SA8000 standard, which covers nine key areas of social accountability.
Hiring a third party to conduct an audit is a good way to meet your organization’s social accountability goals and those of your customers.
If you want to ensure a socially responsible supply chain, visit our social compliance audits page to learn more about our services.