To be a conscious consumer nowadays means being informed. Yet sometimes it honestly feels like you require a PhD in multiple disciplines just to get to grips with the multitude of industry terms and references that surround the space. It shouldn’t require you going back to the books or becoming an expert in a specific field in order to understand whether your potential purchase is going to have a positive or negative impact overall.
With the many accreditation labels and certifications available that encourage greater transparency, it’s undisputedly a positive step for brands to obtain such recognition. For consumers, though, it presents yet another terminology to fact check in the fight against green-washing.
Exactly why we’re continuing our series that gives you the topline takeaways on the many terms surrounding sustainable and ethical fashion and beauty. Your knowledge needn’t be thorough or perfect, but enough to give you peace of mind that you’re making a positive purchasing investment.
Image courtesy: Racked.com
What are SA8000 Certified Organisations?
SA8000 is a social certification standard and process by which individual companies (factories, farms and other workplaces) across the world undergo an assessment by a third-party auditor that encourages businesses to develop, maintain, and apply socially acceptable practices in the workplace.
Developed in 1989 by Social Accountability International (SAI), formerly the Council on Economic Priorities, it is an advisory board consisting of trade unions, NGOs, civil society organisations and companies. The SA8000’s criteria were developed from various industry and corporate codes to create a common standard for social welfare compliance.
This is a process-type standard and not a product-type standard, meaning there’s no seal or label on goods produced by companies certified against the standard. Instead, the criteria require that facilities seeking to gain and maintain certification must go beyond simple compliance to the standard, with prospective facilities obligated to integrate it into their management practices and demonstrate ongoing compliance with the standard.
With its major objective to ensure the application of ethical practices in hiring and the treatment of employees, local communities and in the production of goods and services, it relies on the codes-of-conduct affirmed by International Labour Organization conventions, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It measures the performance of companies in eight areas important to social accountability in the workplace: child labour, forced labour, health and safety, free association and collective bargaining, discrimination, disciplinary practices, working hours and compensation.
Founded on the principles of transparency, credibility, and verification, it is said to be the first global ethical standard and appropriate for any type of organisation regardless of the country, industry, or size.
In the interest of transparency, Social Accountability Accreditations Services assists SAI in making data available about SA8000-certified organisations by way of social audits undertaken impartially, competently and effectively, providing quality assurance. Every quarter CBs are required to submit a list of all currently certified SA8000 organisations. This list informs SAAS of any new organisations that have been certified, and, from this data, SAAS is able to identify trends in certification across industries and countries, as well as see the number of workers that are impacted by certification. With the recognition that audit programs must be of high quality, SAAS evaluates and accredits auditing organisations to assure they are qualified to hold their clients accountable to social standards.
Although not an ISO standard, SA8000 is modelled on similar accreditation and certification schemes, and provides the requirements and audit methodology to evaluate and improve workplace conditions, with the ultimate mission to advance the human rights of workers around the world.
Nevertheless, the question remains, how can you tell if a brand is working with facilities that are SA8000 certified? Short of doing the background check yourself (come on, let’s be real), the team here at Statements is working on developing a way whereby users will be able to search brands based on the many different certifications and production details, to ensure that the products you love are made in a fair and transparent way.
To join us on this journey towards creating a more beautiful, honest world, stay tuned!