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    Factory Compliance Standard
    SA 8000 Introduction

    •Social Accountability International (SAI)

    SAI is a non-governmental, international, multi-stakeholder organization dedicated to improving workplaces and communities by developing and implementing socially responsible standards.

    SAI convenes key stakeholders to develop consensus-based voluntary standards, conducts cost-benefit research, accredits auditors, provides training and technical assistance, and assists corporations in improving social compliance in their supply chains.

    In 1997, SAI launched SA8000 (Social Accountability 8000) – a voluntary standard for
    workplaces, based on ILO and UN conventions – which is currently used by businesses
    and governments around the world and is recognized as one of the strongest workplace
    standards.

    SAI partners with trade unions, local NGOs, multi-stakeholder initiatives, organic, fair trade, and environmental organizations, development charities, and anti-corruption groups to carry out research, training and capacity-building programs.

    •Background
    During the 1990s, as customers became concerned about the conditions under which their clothing was produced, hundreds of businesses drafted codes of conduct describing the appropriate workplace conditions for goods they manufactured or purchased. Many producers were presented with an inconsistent array of requirements from different customers. Producers, customers, consumers, and investors alike were confused.

    Studies in the mid-1990's showed that many codes did not include key International Labor Organization (ILO) or UN human rights conventions nor a management system to provide the basis for an industrial relations or human resources system and the documents needed to enable reliable auditing. Very few were verified. A group of concerned stakeholders was determined to address this situation - to seek to implement internationally and embed organizationally credible human rights standards. Together with the Council on Economic Priorities (CEP), they established SAI to define and verify implementation of ethical workplaces. The group had learned that business codes of conduct needs to be carefully based on international norms and linked with independent verification of compliance.

    In 1996 the SAI Advisory Board came together to work on this issue and develop SA8000 - a standard based on international norms, not on the regulations or system of a single country, NGO or corporation, combined with the labor law of the country where a workplace is located; simultaneously a verification system based on the widely used international methodology of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). From the start, there was determination to not reinvent wheels but instead to build on the knowledge and communality of the international human rights, labor rights and verification communities.

    This organization was founded by the Council on Economic Priorities (CEP), the 30-year-old corporate social responsibility research organization best known for its best seller book "Shopping for a Better World". CEP's highly respected comparative studies of corporate social responsibility in the United States triggered the initiative. SAI published SA8000 in 1997 after field-testing it and its verifiability in three countries.

    During 1997, SAI also developed procedures for accrediting certification organizations-based on existing systems for certifying compliance to international standards ISO 9000, ISO14000, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and organic standards. Such an accreditation program is designed to address the need for consistency in audits from site to site and country to country, and to define criteria for adequate investigation and corrective action -remediation-processes.

    In 2007, the accreditation agency was spun off to become Social Accountability Accreditation Services (SAAS). SAAS provides accreditation services for SAI, InterAction, and the Business for Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI). Since its formation, SAI has worked cooperatively with stakeholders to improve the social performance of organizations around the world. The direct result is a better workplace for hundreds of thousands of people around the world and a way for consumers to be informed about the workplace quality of the companies whose products they purchase. We seek to enable customers-both wholesale and retail-to include workplace quality as a criterion in purchasing. Certification is a useful way of providing information that the ranges of issues to be included in SA8000 are complied with.

     


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