Understanding the Social Accountability Standard sa8000!

Discover the essentials of the SA8000 standard for social accountability, a globally recognized certification promoting fair labor practices, human rights, and ethical treatment of workers in supply chains. Learn about the certification process, key elements, and continuous improvement measures for companies of all sizes and industries.
Written by: 
Bernd Neufert

Expert in strategic procurement

May 21, 2024
5 min Read

What is the social accountability international SA8000 standard?                                              

The SA8000 standard is a key global benchmark for promoting fair and ethical treatment of workers within the global supply chain.
Developed by Social Accountability International (SAI), this standard seeks to uphold human rights and improve working conditions worldwide. As one of the most significant certifications for social standards, SA8000 is applicable to companies of all sizes and industries, offering a framework grounded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO). Today, it impacts over 2 million workers globally.

Structure of SA8000

The SA8000 certification encompasses nine essential elements, each addressing a critical aspect of social responsibility:

  1. Child Labor
    • Companies are prohibited from employing child labor (defined as workers under the age of 15). They must provide adequate protection and support to youthful or legally employed young workers.
  2. Forced and Compulsory Labor
    • The use of forced labor, including bonded labor and human trafficking, is strictly forbidden.
  3. Health and Safety
    • Companies must ensure a safe and healthy working environment for all employees, including proper training, protective equipment, and access to medical care.
  4. Freedom of Association and Right to Collective Bargainingsome text
    • Employees must have the right to join trade unions and engage in collective bargaining.
  5. Discrimination
    • Discrimination based on race, gender, religion, or other protected categories is not permitted.
  6. Disciplinary Practices
    • Physical punishment, mental or physical coercion, and other forms of abusive disciplinary measures are prohibited.
  7. Working Hours
    • Companies must adhere to applicable laws and industry standards regarding working hours, overtime, and rest periods.
  8. Remuneration
    • Employees must be paid at least the legal minimum wage and provided with all legally mandated benefits.
  9. Management System
    • Companies must have policies, procedures, and records in place to ensure ongoing compliance with the SA8000 standard.

SA8000 Certification Process

With its latest update in 2014, the SA8000:2014 certification was enhanced to address contemporary challenges. A notable addition is the "Social Fingerprint" tool, which helps companies continually improve their social performance. This management system includes:

  • Policies, procedures, and records
  • Social performance team
  • Risk identification and assessment
  • Monitoring
  • Internal engagement and communication
  • Complaint management and resolution
  • External verification and stakeholder involvement
  • Corrective and preventive actions
  • Training and capacity building
  • Supplier and contractor management

Companies adhering to the older SA8000:2008 version had until the end of 2017 to transition to the updated framework.

Certification Process

The SA8000 certification involves a four-step process:

  1. Conduct an online self-assessment using the Social Fingerprint Self-Assessment to gauge current compliance with social standards.
  2. Contact one of the twenty SAAS-accredited certification bodies to carry out a comprehensive evaluation.
  3. The certification body reviews documentation, work practices, employee survey responses, and operational records.
  4. If the audit is successful, the company receives the SA8000 certification. Otherwise, suggestions for improvement are provided for the next audit.

Certified companies are continuously monitored through both announced and unannounced visits twice a year. The certification is valid for three years, with the option to renew after this period.

By adhering to the SA8000 standard, companies demonstrate their commitment to ethical business practices and the well-being of their employees, contributing to a more just and equitable global supply chain.

Relatico can help you adhere to the new Standard by overlooking your supply chain and monitoring your suppliers.
Suppliers can easily update needed documentation via simple firesharing, meaning you will always be ready for audits.

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Bernd Neufert
Bernd Neufert
Expert in strategic procurement

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I would be happy to learn about your challenges and show you how our software solutions can help you.

Bernd possesses extensive experience in strategic procurement, shaped by his tenure at Eckes-Granini, Symrise and DuPont de Nemours. Currently, he is focused on sustainable sourcing and supply chains, collaborating with the relatico team to develop practical software solutions. Additionally, Bernd runs his own agricultural business and is involved in supply chain projects globally.