Accreditation is the process by which formal recognition of competence is given to qualified auditing organizations (known as Certification Bodies or CBs), who are then granted the ability to issue certificates of compliance with specified standard systems.
To ensure the independence of standard setting and evaluation functions, most certification schemes appoint a third-party accreditation body to conduct accreditation for their system. For example, SAI has an independent internal division responsible for accrediting CBs for the SA8000 Standard system. Accreditation by SAAS within the SA8000 system works to assure consistency, competence, impartiality, and quality across all CBs that conduct SA8000 audits and issue certificates (SAAS also provides accreditation services to other standard systems).
When a company pursues SA8000 certification, they expect that it will lend them credibility and be considered valuable by clients. Similarly, companies that look for an SA8000 certificate when selecting suppliers expect that the certificate is credible and represents the same level of social performance no matter where it was issued. Accreditation is the process that allows both parties to have trust in the system, which is why any CB that wishes to issue SA8000 certificates must be accredited by SAAS.
Benefits of Accreditation
Certification bodies (CBs) need to be accredited to assure stakeholders that these companies are able to consistently and reliably perform a certification audit and that these audits are carried out in a professional manner. Accreditation provides independence that contributes to impartial assessments of all bodies within the system.
The purpose of accreditation is to assure that auditing bodies are competent to do the work they undertake and that their audit practices are undertaken impartially, competently and effectively, reducing risk to the system. Owners of social and environmental audit systems need assurance that the audit system meets its intended purpose and that third party validation is performed by audit companies qualified to do so. Accreditation provides validation that the system fulfills its intended requirements.
While accredited certification is a valuable tool to evaluate performance and drive supply chain improvement, it is important to recognize that no code or monitoring system can provide absolute assurance of an organization’s adherence to laws and labor standards at all times or provide a 100% guarantee of compliance. All social auditing practices need to be considered as part of a larger effort to improve labor conditions, including equitable contractual cooperation between buyers and suppliers, worker and management training, capacity building, stakeholder engagement, policy and regulation, and various other tools to improve systems and collaboration.
Accreditation by SAAS assures stakeholders that CBs have been assessed against internationally recognized standards and are able to effectively and professionally conduct audits. Accreditation provides a framework to evaluate an accredited CB and requires that the CB is consistent in its methods and practices.
SAAS sets strict policies and oversight procedures for CBs under its purview. Assessment activities throughout the accreditation process by SAAS include document reviews, office audits, observations of auditors (shadow audits), and ongoing monitoring for continuous compliance to requirements.
SAAS accredits certification bodies and trains and qualifies accreditation auditors.
If you are seeking SA8000 certification…
Check the SAAS website to ensure you are working with a SAAS-accredited SA8000 certification body—these are the only audit firms authorized to issue valid SA8000 certificates. Go to list of accredited SA8000 certification bodies.
If you are looking to source from an SA8000-certified facility…
Check your supplier’s certificate to confirm it has the SAAS seal (right). All accredited CBs are required to include this seal on the SA8000 certificates they issue.
You can also check the public list of certified facilities maintained by SAAS. Note that this list may not include facilities certified within the last quarter.
The Value of Accredited Certification Survey Report
This report from the International Accreditation Forum captures market feedback on the value of certification, drivers for seeking certification, selection criteria for certification services, and the positive outcomes of certification.