The New SA8000:2014 Certification System

 Beyond Measurement: Inclusion of Tools for Improvement


In May 2015, certification to the new SA8000: 2014 Standard becomes available. This is an exciting development, as the new Standard not only includes new requirements around emerging global labor issues and demands from stakeholders, but also involves the integration of SAI's capacity building tool, Social Fingerprint.
A prohibition on charging employment fees and costs to workers is one example of a new element related to emerging global issues. Increased worker engagement in the compliance process exemplifies the integration with Social Fingerprint.
It has long been clear that auditing and certification in themselves are not sufficient to reliably improve working conditions ("You don't fatten a pig by weighing it.") An SA8000 audit, like all audits, is a measurementof compliance and management systems at a particular point of time, that tests how well a system is being implemented. Audits can identify issues, but only with an effective correction and verification approach do they lead to correcting them. Often, either performance changes (for example, with volatility in volume of orders) or additional interventions are needed at the workplace, such as training, technical assistance, capacity building, effective enforcement of the law, and/or access to financing.
Stakeholders are demanding more than audits. They ask that governments, brands and employers move beyond audits and into more consistently effective action. They expect workplace managers and owners to participate in capacity building  and training in order to ensure that issues identified during audits are evaluated for root causes, that corrective and preventive actions are implemented and that workers themselves are actively engaged all along the process.
Such an approach has always been an integral part of SAI's work and a requirement of SA8000 system implementation. SAI has responded to the growing consensus with the development of Social Fingerprint and TenSquared. Now, as of May 2015, Social Fingerprint has been integrated into the SA8000 system on a trail basis. Thus initial capacity building is now required at the application stage before an audit is performed,  enable applicants to determine whether or not they are ready for certification. Social Fingerprint will provide an initial measurement of their management system and highlight areas of improvement.
Social Fingerprint has been used independently of SA8000 for several years as a means for companies to measure and improve their management systems. It looks beyond code violations to evaluate the underlying processes essential to a high-level social performance. It explains the processes in terms of 10 key categories that can enable a company to improve:
  1. Management System Policies, Procedures and Records
  2. Social Performance Team
  3. Identification and Assessment of Risks
  4. Monitoring
  5. Internal Involvement and Communication
  6. Complaint Management and Resolution
  7. External Verification and Stakeholder Engagement
  8. Corrective and Preventive Actions
  9. Training and Capacity Building
  10. Management of Suppliers and Contractors
These 10 categories were used to revise the Management System element of SA8000: 2014. Thus, the 10 categories in Social Fingerprint match the 10 parts of SA8000: 2014's Management System section. As part of certification to SA8000: 2014, organisations must start with the Social Fingerprint self-assessment.
The assessments take participants through questions in each of the 10 process categories and provide a Social Fingerprint score (Levels 1 through 5) in each of the 10 categories, and an overall score. This enables the applicant to understand how it's currently doing and what it can target for improvement. The SA8000: 2014 Guidance Document (forthcoming Spring 2015) will include in its management system section a guide on how to move up levels in order to improve.
One of the major advantages of the integration of Social Fingerprint into the SA8000 audit process is that applicants may quickly and efficiently find out before an audit is conducted whether they are likely to be found to comply with SA8000. Thus, the self-assessment may be used as a capacity-building tool for internal auditors and compliance managers. It provides a step-by-step approach to developing and implementing management systems for social performance. The process-based, measure-and-improve approach encourages transparency and dialogue rather than audit-driven compliance. The self-assessment takes only 1-2 hours to complete.
SAI's shared vision is: Decent work everywhere - sustained by widespread understanding that decent work can benefit business while securing basic human rights. SA8000: 2014 is one part of what we do to reach this vision. We hope that the integration of Social Fingerprint will build the capacity of organisations around the world to understand what it takes to ensure decent workplaces. 
Yet, SAI recognizes that voluntary compliance standards are only one part of what is needed to ensure decent work.  To that end, SAI calls on governments worldwide to effectively enforce their labor laws, all those regulations that are consistent with ILO conventions. SAI itself has developed a wide array of training and technical assistance programs to inspire and implement the voluntary aspects that support and often go well beyond regulatory requirements. 
For more information, please contact SAI's Senior Manager of Research and Stakeholder Relations, Alex Katz, at