As social and environmental reports have grown in number and in specificity, the need has also grown to reduce duplication of efforts and lack of consistency among reporting systems.
One way of reducing the burden is through harmonization of standards, i.e., sharing definitions and operational concepts so that complying with one set of standards leads to compliance with another.Another step toward reducing the burden of certification and compliance is through mutual recognition, i.e., acceptance by one standard-setting body of compliance with another set of standards as leading to partial or full compliance with another.Finally, a third approach is that of integrated audits, i.e., sharing of the certification tasks by certification bodies for two or more different standards.
The shared goal of these efforts is to increase the diffusion and reduce the cost of adhering to common standards of reporting to improve the accuracy and reliability of corporate reports to stakeholders and in the process ensure decent and sustainable workplaces.
Convergence is already occurring with the integration in many companies of their ISO9000 and ISO14000 management systems audits (for operations and the environment) with SA8000 audits.Quite a few companies are certified against all three of these standards.Several ISEAL certification programs are working in alliance toward these goals.
The SASA project (Social Accountability in Sustainable Agriculture) is a prime example.SASA’s objectives include harmonization, developing methods for integrated audits (for example, pesticide use is an issue for both occupational health and safety of workers and protection of the environment, so it is an auditable item for both fair workplace and environmental standards), and adoption of best practice.It also seeks better mutual understanding and a practical common strategy to address the special needs of small enterprises in poor countries.Lastly, it seeks to enable and encourage the four organizations to work together to inform and attract consumers.
Cooperation among the labor initiatives has, to date, proven elusive, and far easier to envision than to realize.The Multi-Stakeholder Codes Initiative (MI6) seeks to unite leading labor code of conduct organizations in a program of collaborative work.The Initiative brings together six American and European organizations: Social Accountability International (SAI), the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC), the Fair Labor Association (FLA), the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), the Fair Wear Foundation (FWF) and the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC).The Initiative aims to improve the quality and increase the effectiveness of code of conduct monitoring as a means of promoting greater respect for internationally recognized worker rights.
The initiative will establish, for the first time, a broadly agreed set of “best practices,” or standards, for how monitoring and remediation should be done.This will improve the work of the participating organizations, raise standards throughout the monitoring field, and provide a basis for interested parties to assess the quality and reliability of the numerous monitoring organizations and code systems that comprise an ever-expanding field.
It is hoped that this project will lay the groundwork for the upward harmonization of monitoring systems and the potential creation of formal structures that will facilitate long-term cooperation among monitoring groups, global brands, and local actors.The project will involve joint monitoring and remediation work at a series of apparel factories in Turkey.These joint projects will incorporate a variety of code enforcement methods and strategies and through this work, and analysis of the outcomes, the participating groups will identify “best practices” and develop viable models for ongoing cooperation.The results will be broadly shared with the intent to help reduce duplication of effort, inefficient use of resources and the “audit fatigue” suffered by suppliers, which limit the impact of code enforcement.