Selecting the right social compliance standard

Auditing a new supplier against social compliance standards is a must. Such an audit ensures that the business has formal social and ethical guidelines in place throughout their operations and that labor rights are being respected. But just which social compliance audit should you be conducting? Should you utilize an RBA audit? A BSCI audit? An SA8000 audit? SMETA? WRAP?

Social Compliance

With such a large choice of social compliance audits available, it can be a challenge to ensure you’ve chosen the right option for your business. While most of the social compliance standards follow the International Labor Organization (ILO) guidelines, there are differences between target industries, audit principles, and certification standards, among other criteria.

In order to help bring some clarity, we’ve outlined the main social compliance audit standards below, so you can better understand how each operates.

Amfori: BSCI

With over 2,400 members, the BCSI standard is organized by Amfori. Covering various industries, BSCI focuses on the general merchandise, garment, textile, household goods, food and beverage, electronics, and accessories segments. Not a certification, BSCI provides the framework to help companies improve the working conditions across their supply chain, and also includes environmental principles.

Social audit principles under the BSCI standard cover rights of freedom of association and collective bargaining, discrimination, remuneration, working hours, occupational health and safety, child labor, special protection for young workers, precarious employment, bonded labor, protection of the environment, and ethical business behavior. The BSCI standard covers a cross-sector of industry needs, including general merchandising, garment, textiles, household goods, food and beverage, electronics, and accessories.

Major companies utilizing the BSCI standard include Aldi, Amazon, Carrefour, Target, Triumph, Everlast, and Halti.

Social Accountability International: SA8000

The SA8000 standard by Social Accountability International is a fully certified standard, with 4,608 certified companies falling under its purview. While it does not include environmental principles, the SA8000 standard does include interviews with workers and covers a wide scope of industries.

The SA8000 audit principles ensure no child labor, no forced or compulsory labor, proper health and safety, freedom of association and right to collective bargaining, anti-discrimination, ethical disciplinary practices, working hours, remuneration, and management systems.

Major companies utilizing the SA8000 standard include Disney, Gucci, Timberland, and Everest.

Sedex: SEDEX SMETA

Organized by Sedex, the SEDEX SMETA audit is an audit methodology and provides guidance rather than certification. With over 60,000 companies utilizing the SEDEX SMETA methodology, it is one of the most widely used social compliance audits in the world and includes environmental principles among its audit principles. Industries using SEDEX SMETA include those in the fresh food and grocery categories, apparel, packaging, chemical, home goods, and tools and machinery segments.

SMETA SEDEX follows a checklist of audit principles that cover universal rights covering the UN Guiding Principles for businesses to respect human rights, management systems and code implementation, freely chosen employment, freedom of association, safety and hygienic working conditions, child labor, living wages and benefits, working hours, discrimination, regular employment, sub-contracting and home-working, harsh or inhumane treatment, entitlement to work, environment, and business ethics.

Companies such as Walmart, The Body Shop, Procter & Gamble, Pepsi, KFC, and Nestle, are among those adhering to the SMETA SEDEX principles.

Responsible Business Alliance: RBA

The Responsible Business Alliance is behind the RBA guidelines, which are predominantly used by the electronics industry.

The RBA audit principles align with the major guidelines that electronics manufacturers have chosen to pay attention to labor, health and safety, environment, ethics, and management.

With over 400 members, the RBA social compliance audit is used by large global technology conglomerates that include Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, HP, TSMC, Intel, and ACER.

Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production: WRAP

The WRAP certification applies, to around 2,700 companies to date, who cover industries across the sewn-products sector (apparel, textile, accessories, footwear, leather, and furniture).

Used by many retailers, and with a focus on certifying socially responsible factories, the WRAP certification addresses the following range of audit principles: compliance with laws and workplace regulations, prohibition of forced and child labor, prohibition of harassment or abuse, compensation and benefits as required by law, hours of work as limited by law, prohibition of discrimination, health and safety, freedom of association and collective bargaining, customs compliance, security, and environment.

Pro QC assesses vendors or factories based on the right social compliance guidelines for their industry and provides the requisite assistance to prepare businesses to pass their formal compliance audits.

With expertise in providing world-class reporting for inspections, audits, supplier development, and vendor compliance, Pro QC is a world-class provider of third-party quality assurance solutions across more than 88 countries. We help companies prepare for certifications or conduct independent audits to verify supplier compliance with international standards. Download one of our sample social compliance audit reports at https://proqc.com/services/sample-reports/.