Complaints, Concerns, and Grievances

Grievance mechanisms provide a means for workers and other interested parties to directly address problems in the workplace - this commitment to respond to allegations by workers and stakeholders is a characteristic in a well-functioning management system. 

SA8000 certification requires that certified organisations maintain processes for employees and other stakeholders to raise concerns - and that those concerns will be thoroughly investigated. An appropriate balance between openness and confidentiality - including responsiveness to dissatisfaction - is a necessary piece of the process to demonstrate integrity and credibility to all users of the certification.

SAAS has established an internal procedure to address how claims of wrongdoing, incorrect decision-making, or other dissatisfaction may be made by Certification Bodies (CBs) and others against the accreditation process and resultant decisions made by SAAS. An allegation of a complaint, concern, or grievance received by SAAS will be reviewed, investigated and appropriate action taken to resolve the concern.  

Any individual may raise an allegation of wrongdoing related to an SA8000-certified organisation, a SAAS-accredited CB, or SAAS.  With complaints against certified organisations or accredited CBs, the scope of the SAAS investigative process is focused on the audit performance, conduct of the audit, and decision-making process of the CB. The investigation revolves around the certification and accreditation requirements applicable to the audit process.  In order to be accepted for review, each allegation must fall within the scope of SAAS oversight and accreditation activity.

In the SA8000 system, the allegation is handled by the closest agent to the source of the dissatisfaction and such allegations are variously directed to Certified Organisations, CBs, and SAAS.  For example, if the allegation of wrongdoing relates to the SA8000 certification of an organisation, the CB is responsible for the follow up. 

Stakeholders should note that, as the accreditation body, SAAS does not make certification decisions.  It is the contractual obligation of CBs to evaluate and assess the SA8000-certified organisations, issue and suspend SA8000 certificates and monitor their client non-conformities.  Should an accredited CB fail to undertake these activities appropriately and in line with SAAS requirements, SAAS has the authority to issue non-conformities to the CB and suspend or withdraw the CB's accreditation certificate.

Escalation and Reporting Process
The escalation process below outlines how any interested party should raise and pursue allegations of dissatisfaction related to accredited SA8000 certifications. Note: Deviations from this escalation process may be appropriate under exceptional circumstances.

1) Allegations About: SA8000-Certified facility (CF) performance or operations are reported to (as appropriate): 
  • CF’s trade union representative(s) or SA8000 worker representative(s) (SA8000 clause 9.2.2); and/or
  • CF’s social performance team (SPT) members (SA8000 clause 9.2.1); and/or
  • CF’s senior management representative responsible for health & safety (SA8000 clause 3.4);
  • Only if there is NO satisfactory response should the concern be escalated to: the CB issuing the SA8000 certificate (see below).

2) Allegations about: The quality of a Certification Body's (CB's) SA8000 practices (and escalations from 1, above) are reported to (as appropriate):

  • CB’s appointed auditor, lead auditor, client manager; and/or
  • CB’s local management; and/or 
  • CB’s global management;
  • Only if there is no satisfactory response should the concern be escalated to: Social Accountability Accreditation Services.

3) Allegations about: The validity or integrity of a CB's SA8000 practices (and escalations from 2, above) are reported to (as appropriate):

  • Social Accountability Accreditation Services’ (SAAS’) auditor, lead auditor, client manager; and/or
  • Social Accountability Accreditation Services’ head office;
  • Only if there is no satisfactory response at this level should the concern be escalated to: Social Accountability International head office.

4) Appeal about: A documented request by a CB for reconsideration of any adverse accreditation decision related to its desired accreditation (and escalations from disputes that cannot be resolved amicably through routine communications) are reported to (as appropriate):

  • Social Accountability Accreditation Services’ (SAAS’) auditor, lead auditor, client manager; and/or
  • Social Accountability Accreditation Services’ head office.

General Guidelines
To be accepted for review, each allegation must:

  • fall within the scope of SAAS oversight/accreditation activity;
  • be made in writing
  • clearly state, for each allegation being made: the expectations against which the allegations is made and information supporting (or substantiating) the allegation.  

Allegations of wrongdoing, incorrect decision-making, or other dissatisfaction may be made against SAAS, an individual CB, or SA8000-certified organisation.  These allegations should address acts that are:
  • current;
  • specific;
  • serious, and/or systemic; 
  • directly relate to normative requirements invoked within certification schemes overseen by SAAS;   
  • violate the SAAS accreditation or certification methodology or the SA8000 Standard; and 
  • wherever practicable, allegations shall be submitted in English.. 

In order for an allegation to be thoroughly and effectively investigated, it is important that all available information be considered.  To the greatest extent possible, each allegation should be: 
  1. individually stated;
  2. be supported by additional evidence (such as names of individuals involved / impacted, dates, copies of records); and
  3. include or make reference to applicable scheme requirements allegedly not fulfilled.

Any person or entity may file a claim with SAAS within the scope of SAAS activity and oversight.  The complainant may remain confidential, where his or her identity will be known only to SAAS - however, to effectively progress most allegations received, it is necessary for SAAS to contact the complainant.  Therefore, SAAS urges all complainants to provide contact information.  A complainant has the right to remain anonymous, however, investigations may be more efficient and effective if communications are not constrained by anonymity.  Allegations from anonymous sources, or allegations not clearly defined or communicated, may be subject to communication delays.  SAAS reserves the right to reject allegations that cannot be adequately justified or clarified by the complainant.

Investigative Process
To be accepted for review, SAAS will review each allegation for acceptability.  The allegation/s will then be progressed through a triage and evaluation process, resulting in development and execution of an appropriate action plan.  As a result, SAAS may elect to investigate an accredited CB or certified facility's actions (as appropriate)  through a scheduled or unscheduled audit, document review, or other such actions.  The complainant shall be advised in writing that the investigation has been carried out and that action has been taken.  SAAS shall consider whether there are operational risks and opportunities to be addressed as a result of the dissatisfaction evaluations and, if so, shall require implementation of corrective or preventive actions (commensurate with risks or opportunities identified) to address probable or actual causes.  

Submitting a Dissatisfaction
All expressions of dissatisfaction (complaints, concerns, grievances, disputes, and appeals) must fall within the scope of SAAS accreditation and/or certification criteria in order to be accepted.  No particular format for the complaint is required, but SAAS strongly urges all complainants to use the online SAAS form to submit a complaint.  Alternatively, a complainant may download and use the complaints form and forward the completed form with supporting evidence to SAAS.  To lodge a dissatisfaction, please contact Lisa Bernstein and review the general guidelines, provided above.

Unaccredited SA8000 Certificates

The SAAS accreditation process provides independent confirmation of competence to deliver an SA8000 audit.  SAI, the creator and owner of the SA8000 Standard, has authorized only those CBs that are accredited by SAAS to issue SA8000 certificates.  Some certification bodies that are not accredited, or accredited by an organisation that is not SAAS, may offer an SA8000 service that is cheaper, or combines consulting with certification.  Others may offer to provide their services on a "no certificate = no fee" basis.  Please recognize that such services and/or certificates are not recognized by SAI, SAAS and other stakeholders in the system.  Brands and retailers will not accept such unaccredited SA8000 certificates.  To report the issuance of an unaccredited SA8000 certificate, or to inquire as to the validity of an SA8000 certificate, please contact Lisa Bernstein.