Social Accountability International
The 21st century market place is emerging as one where consumers are placing a great deal of emphasis on ethics. This has resulted in the growing importance of corporate social responsibility.
Corporate Social Responsibility refers to the broader responsibilities that organisations have to society – moral, ethical, and philanthropic. Apart from their responsibilities to their stakeholders and the law, organisations are also becoming aware of their responsibility towards their customers, the environment, communities at large and importantly, towards their employees.
With recent media coverage about issues such as child labour and “sweat shops”, organisations have found that their reputations can be damaged and consumers may boycott their products/services if they do not take their responsibilities towards their employees seriously. Also, organisations may not be able to find and retain good employees as a result of their policies towards their employees.
Recognising the problems in the area of corporate responsibility towards employees, Social Accountability International was established with the aim to promote human rights for workers around the world.
 About Social Accountability International
Social Accountability International (SAI) was incorporated in 1997 in the US. It is an international NGO committed to the improvement of work places for employees.
To achieve its goal, SAI has developed a voluntary work place standard called SA8000 (Social Accountability 8000), which is based on ILO conventions and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the UN Convention on Rights for the Child.
SAI also partners with trade unions, NGO’s, fair trade organisations, and charities to conduct research and training, and to assist companies in improving their social compliance.
 Did You Know?
- 126 million child labourers are engaged in hazardous activities
- A sweatshop is a factory where workers are subject to extreme exploitation, including super-low wages, no benefits, filthy or dangerous working conditions, denial of their worker and human rights
- In a study of 250 business leaders, IBM found that over half of them believe their corporate social responsibility activities are giving them an advantage over top competitors
- SAI has certified over 1500 suppliers in 62 countries and 62 industries
- Retailiers, brand companies and other employers worlwide with annual sales of over USD175 billion are using SA8000
 SA8000 Standard
The SA8000 standard was developed by SAI in collaboration with representatives of trade unions, manufacturers, retailers, contractors, human rights organisations, academia, as well as consulting and certifications firms. It was first published in 1997 and later revised in 2001.
The SA8000 is a credible standard for assuring humane work places. Organisations that wish to be certified as following the SA8000 standard are independently audited through an accredited certification body. The certification bodies are accredited and overseen by Social Accountability Accreditation Services (SAAS).
Social Accountability International works with ISEAL to ensure that standards are set in line with the best practices for standard setting.
 SA8000 Standard
The SA8000 Standard covers nine basic elements:
- Child labour: As per the SA8000 standard, there should be no child labour under the age of 15. This minimum can be reduced to the age of 14 in countries operating under the ILO Convention 138 developing country exception. In case any child is found to be working, the organisation must undertake immediate remediation.
- Forced labour: No forced or debt bondage labour is allowed. Also prohibited is the lodging of deposits or identity papers by employers or outside recruiters.
- Health and Safety: The work environment should be safe and healthy. There should be regular worker training in health and safety issues. Care to prevent injuries should be taken and there should be system to detect threats to employee health and safety. Employees should have access to bathrooms and potable water.
- Freedom of association and right to collective bargaining: Employees must have the right to form and join trade unions and to bargain collectively. In countries where the law prohibits this, organisations must facilitate parallel means of association and bargaining for employees.
- Discrimination: Employees cannot be discriminated against on the basis of origin, race, caste, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation, union or political affiliation or age. Sexual harassment is prohibited.
- Discipline: Employees may not be subjected to verbal abuse, corporal punishment, or mental or physical coercion.
- Working hours: Working hours of employees must be in line with the applicable law but may not exceed 48 hours per week. There must be at least one day off in every seven day period. Overtime must be paid at a premium and cannot exceed 12 hours per week on a regular basis. Mandatory overtime is allowed if part of a collective bargaining agreement.
- Compensation: The employee compensation must be in line with legal and industry standards, and must be enough to meet the basic needs of workers and their families. Deduction of wages as disciplinary action is prohibited.
- Management Systems: Organisations must move beyond simple compliance to the standard to integrating the standard into their management system and practices.
For the detailed standards please visit SA8000 Standards
 SAI Corporate Programs
The SAI and the SA8000 standard are focussed on the human elements in the workplace and the supply chain. This means that SAI is committed to helping organisations recognise and respect the dignity of all workers in the supply chain – “from the worker to the brand to the retailer to the consumer”.
To help organisations develop and implement their corporate social responsibilities, SAI runs Corporate Programs. These Corporate Programs help organisations integrate the concept of social responsibility into their supply chains.
The SAI runs three levels of Corporate Programs, - Supporting level, Explorer level, Signatory level. The Supporting level program is designed for organisations that are new to corporate social responsibility. The organisation that are part of the Supporting level program show that they have an interest in learning about social compliance and the building of ethical supply chains.
Explorer level programs are meant for companies that are keen to become more active in their corporate social responsibility. SAI assists these organisations in comparing their practices with the best practices in the field.
Signatory level programs are designed for organisations that want to make a public commitment to higher standards for corporate social responsibility. These organisations are assessed by SAI for social compliance throughout the supply chain. The practices of these organisations are verified SA8000 system and best practices in the field. These organisations, once verified, are allowed to use SA8000 logo in all communications as a visible mark to show their commitment to corporate social responsibility.
 SAI Training Programs
SAI undertakes a number of training programs which include training for auditors in SA8000 standard, advanced auditor training, supplier training, supply chain management and working training. SAI also undertakes customised training modules for organisations depending on their requirements. For more information, please visit SA8000 Trainings
 SAI Global Programs
Since its inception, SAI has worked on a number of development programs around the world, undertaking trainings and involving local stakeholders for standard development in countries like China, Vietnam, Turkey and European and Central American countries.
 List of certified organisations
For more information on the certification process and for a list of certified companies and accreditations bodies please visit Social Accountability Accreditation Service
- Corporate Social Responsibility
- Corporate Social Responsibility: Meeting Changing Expectations
- What is CSR?
- SARD and Child Labour
- Sweat shop Information
- Turning the best of intentions into good business
- Social Accountability International
- Social Accountability Accreditation Service