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Social Accountability International (SAI) is a non-profit, multi-stakeholder organization established to advance the human rights of workers by promoting decent work conditions, labor rights, and corporate social responsibility through voluntary standards and capacity building.
SAI is headquartered in the United States with field representation in Brazil, China, Costa Rica, India, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Philippines, Switzerland, and UAE.
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|Living Wage: Challenges & Opportunities Ahead
SAI's Edwin Koster discusses the context of living wage issues, and opportunities ahead for a broader collaboration
SAI Europe Representative & Lead Trainer on Implementing the UN Guiding Principles, Edwin Koster
On January 30, 2012,the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) and Rainforest Alliance hosted a Seminar on a Living Wage in Amsterdam. Over 60 labor standard experts and policy makers from state governments, NGOs in the international social accountability, sustainability and fair trade field, companies and academia, attended. SAI Advisory Board member Dorianne Beyer, Esq., delivered the keynote address, focusing on the history of living wage, definitions, calculation, implementation and continuing issues.
SAI Europe Representative Edwin Koster led a presentation on the role of living wage in the SA8000 Standard, and opportunities for its implementation via the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights, and the recent MoU agreement between SAI, Fairtrade International and GoodWeave.
"SAI was the first NGO to integrate the living wage concept in a standard - SA8000," said Mr. Koster. "There are various experiences, positive and negative out of our own 'kitchen' on the impact of implementing a living wage in the SA8000 Standard. For example, some facilities note that it has helped to set them apart from their competitors, or provide assurance to their clients who find good labor conditions more important. On the flipside, others also note that higher wages in many cases combined with reduced working hours substantially increases costs and therefore reduces profits, or this increase in costs results in the brands shifting their manufacturing to different countries where the cost is lower, as we've seen in the case of China."
However, there are a lot of costs that can be saved by ensuring that your workers are paid a living wage, many of which are not always calculated. Mr. Koster noted, "taking care of workers can improve the bottom line. In many countries, personnel turnover can be 50 or 100% per year. This means such facilities start with a complete new workforce every 1 or 2 years. This means they have to hire and train a lot of people. Also, inexperienced workers frequently make mistakes and are less productive. As a result defect rates go up and quality and productivity go down. There are a lot of costs which do not apply when you keep your workers longer in your facility by taking care of them."
While SAI has received a lot feedback from the field on its experience with implementing a living wage, it remains a dynamic and challenging process, "due to the lack of a globally accepted definition which hinders mainstream adoption," said Mr. Koster. "There is also a lack of transparent data on calculations of living wages accessible by stakeholders willing to work and implement a living wage. Additionally, stakeholders have so far hardly been able to create sufficient insights in the differences and complementarity between living wages and national minimum wages and collective bargained wages. These three types of wages sometimes confuse stakeholders or even create ´conflicts´ as a living wage concept is sometimes perceived as undermining other wages concepts. Understandable, but also a missed opportunity as living wages can and should positively influence national legal minimum wages and collectively bargained wages."
As demonstrated through this event, there is a wider debate on living wages, of which SAI closely follows and contributes to. Two initiatives are of particular interest. The revised OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights have brought human rights - including the 'right to just and favorable remuneration' - high on the agenda of stakeholders. Mr. Koster co-authored the SAI - ICCO Handbook and is SAI's lead trainer on how business can implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
The recent MoU agreement between SAI, FLO and GoodWeave is a partnership to forge a path towards the goal of developing an open source protocol for generating and storing living wage data based on a common approach and methodology. The proposed project is still in the design stage, however, we welcome input from interested parties who want to work with us going forward.
This article includes contributions from SAI Europe Representative Edwin Koster. For more information, please contact SAI Communications Manager Joleen Ong - Jong@sa-intl.org.
SA8000 Q&A: Recruitment Agencies
SAI Lead Trainer Sanjiv Singh assesses the risks behind the use of recruitment agencies for workers, and what auditors can do
Question: The tendency to work with recruitment agencies is growing in Western and Eastern Europe. In your opinion, when factories chose to recruit workforce through an agency, are they posing higher risk to brands they work with? Do they shift the focus of attention and at the same time shift responsibility? Brands rarely audit the agencies, however, and real or potential violations in this sector multiply: types of contracts are signed from which workers do not benefit, deductions are taken from the wages, workers are employed in two companies and work twice as much, etc. As auditors, what can we do to protect workers today?
Sanjiv Singh: There is an issue here - will brands be willing to dig as deep as looking at the paperwork that goes into hiring and the historical problem of recruitment agents especially when it concerns migrant workers? You are correct in saying that brands rarely audit the recruitment agents, but we know of some that do.
Two kinds of employment arrangements are mostly seen. From my experience in Europe, employees are hired through recruitment agencies and such employees stay on the payroll of the agency and are paid wages by the agency. Workers could be from the country where the company in question is located or they could be foreign workers. This has a different set of risks. The other type of arrangement is when the factory uses recruitment agents in a foreign country and pays them a fee to hire workers - those employed are paid directly by the factory. This is common in the Middle East and several parts of Asia.
A good auditor should understand the reason why factories hire through recruitment agents. The reasons are different for the two types of arrangements cited above.
The fact that employers increasingly use recruitment agents as opposed to directly hiring workers can lead to exploitation in and of itself. Top management at factories use the service of labor suppliers to identify, screen, interview and recommend workers rather than send their own HR team to do all of this directly. Such an approach is expensive. But some employers lack the capacity to do it themselves. A couple of things happen here - recruitment agents most often take a fee for each worker from the factory (which is OK) and they also often ask workers to pay them excessively large sums as a condition to being employed (which is not OK). In some instances HR staff in factories connive with the recruitment agent and get a kickback from the agent. I have known HR staff to be treated lavishly by agents in the donor country and provided favors that are unmentionable here. The key problem is that workers do not know the factory or what it stands for with regards to human rights practices and deal with the agent directly.
I am not sure how much audits at the recruitment agents premises will help or be utilized - but a thorough background check is always recommended.
So what can auditors do to prevent such practices and what evidence should be brought to a customer brand's attention? Here are a few of the checks auditors can use, depending on the situation:
- Auditors should read through the terms of engagement/MoU's signed between factories and agents for providing the service.
- Verify whether or not the agent is registered with local authorities and meets ALL requirements of local law for providing services. (There is a separate set of rules for labor agents and most often the government monitors it very closely, as they are aware of the exploitation that takes place).
- Speak to stakeholders and other interested parties, including local NGOs and unions.
- Ask HR staff to explain the process and see if it meets the written arrangement/MoU.
- Ask workers how much they pay recruitment agents.
If HR malpractice is identified, it will require a very tactful and astute auditor to break the news to top management.
While there is nothing wrong with temporary work provided there's no exploitation of workers' rights in the system, we need to understand that this is a situation of supply and demand - in many places right now the supply of workers is larger than the availability of jobs and this creates a particularly volatile situation.
The ILO has several recommendations and guidelines for member States to tackle this. Depending on the country, there is a 'Trafficking in Persons' (TIP) report providing information of trafficking issues that are of serious concern specially when hiring through recruitment agents. No brand wants a trafficked employee hired unknowingly through an agent to be working in a factory where its goods are produced.
This Q & A was adapted from a question that was originally posted on LinkedIn's 'CSR and Human Rights Consultants' group. If you have a question, please let us know by contacting Joleen Ong - Jong@sa-intl.org.
Multi-Stakeholder Advisory Committee Focuses on Occupational Health & Safety
In Shenzhen, concrete steps sought to improve working conditions in China
On January 23, more than 30 participants from a wide range of stakeholder groups met in Shenzhen, China to continue the Multi-Stakeholder Advisory Committee (MAC) dialogue and consultative process that began in 2012. Mainetti, the global apparel hangar brand, hosted the meeting, which aimed to address common issue areas and seek concrete steps to improve health and safety in the working environment in China.
MACs provide a forum for dialogue about specific labor issues in a particular economic sector and geographic area, which will lead to the development of responsible, competitive and sustainable businesses. They aim to drive collaboration among standards and code systems, to develop dialogue among global and local stakeholders, and to disseminate consensus-based strategies to improve industrial relations, labor conditions and business competitiveness.
Due to the heightened awareness of fire and occupational safety and health issues in supply chains, including in China, the partners agreed to discuss occupational safety and health and the importance of improved audit oversight and management systems in any improvement efforts. This discussion also included an examination of the root causes of fatal factory fires and a consideration of potential strategies for addressing these problems that can be embedded into various social standards and applied by the factories in China's context.
Participants included representatives of the ACFTU, the Institute of Sustainable Community, Esquel, Mainetti, Esprit, KARSTADT, Walt Disney Company, Migros, Bogart Lingerie, Fair Wear Foundation, and local NGOs, in addition to the partner organizations SAI, BSCI, WRAP, CNTAC, and Solidaridad. Mainetti shared with the participants its experience at the plant, and participants commended the company for its support and hosting the meeting.
RAGS Project Engages Primark on Gender Discrimination
Primark's Ethical Trade Manager explains how the RAGS project workshops support the company's supplier development initiatives
SAI India Project Dir. Rishi Sher Singh leads a workshop in English & Hindi for managers, workers & supervisors in Gurgaon, India. For more photos, visit http://on.fb.me/YtXuOy
Among the active group of participants were representatives from the major UK and European retailer Primark, as well as representatives from 70 of their supplier factories. Deepak Sharma, Ethical Trade Manager at Primark, explained, "we found this as a good option to train our factories on this sensitive issue. We audit factories for social compliance issues and feel that such issues are difficult to identify due to their sensitive nature."
Primark staff and suppliers have actively participated in the trainings in New Delhi and Tirupur. SAI has also planned special trainings for Primark's buying house in New Delhi and Tirupur, giving focused attention and creating an intense learning group. The inputs provided by Primark staff during the trainings have provided valuable perspective on the issue of gender discrimination.
"Primark has been highly supportive of the RAGS Project," said SAI India Project Director Mr. Singh, "we appreciate Mr. Sharma's proactive approach to supplier development and openness to work with SAI on these gender discrimination trainings. We are pleased that brands such as Primark are linking to the funding provided by UK Aid and utilizing the training offered through the RAGS project"
Strategically, Primark widened the scope of participation to include representatives from varied job responsibilities - such as managers, supervisors and workers. "We thought of training our in-house [social compliance] team for the same and also sensitizing the factories to address root causes as well," said Mr. Sharma. "We also involved participants from outside the human resources and compliance function which was a good idea." Mr. Singh from SAI added, "with the recent sad event of the brutal rape case in Delhi in December 2012, India is awakening to women's rights and prevention of all kinds of harassment at work. The SAI training in RAGS is well timed and feeds into the overall sentiment of the country and the need of gender sensitization. Personally, all the trainings have been very emotional and touching, especially the acknowledgement from male participants on the need to respect women."
Changing attitudes by sensitizing people to challenging issues such as gender discrimination is critical to fostering change at the workplace level. "What I gathered from my team was that the workshops were wonderful as they brought different mindsets and ideologies together," said Mr. Sharma. "It gave everyone a chance to see the same issue differently and understand the nitty-gritty of the issue."
Additional supporters of the program include Gap Inc., Timberland, PGC Switcher, American Eagle, Burberry and the buying house Triburg. SAI's RAGS Project is funded by UK Aid's Department for International Development (DFID).
For more information and to participate in these courses, please visit www.sa-intl.org/indiarags, or contact SAI Rishi Sher Singh at Rishi@sa-intl.org.
Call for Suppliers: Brazil Worker Engagement Program
SAI invites São Paulo factories to join the Worker Engagement Program to improve health & safety systems
Over the past decade, it has become clear that to improve workplaces, management systems and effective ways to engage teams in tackling specific problems are needed.
Established October 2012, SAI's Worker Engagement Program
aims to improve health and safety in workplaces of companies in the São Paulo region. This program is designed to help supplier factories enhance health and safety systems to better meet international labor standards.
The program will work with groups of companies to set 100-day internal goals towards improving a specific health and safety issue. It will utilize the award-winning Rapid Results Institute
methodology for change management to set and achieve goals through team building.
It will also leverage cutting-edge mobile technology to help support internal communications during the process.
Delivered in partnership with the Rapid Results Institute, the program will:
- Address root causes of health and safety issues
- Expand on existing health and safety committees to form worker-manager Social Performance Teams
- Make measurable improvements in one specific health and safety issue in a 100-day Rapid Results project - a methodology that can be used for further achievements in other areas
Thanks to generous support from the Walt Disney Company, SAI and its partner, the Rapid Results Institute, will offer this training and cutting-edge technology at no cost. Additional program services will come from Labor Link and The Cahn Group, both of which have deep expertise in working with manufacturers around the world.
Applicants will be selected from a range of industries, company sizes and health and safety performance levels. Commitment of senior management will be factored into the final selection.
Upcoming Workshops: RJC Code of Practices in India
Responsible Jewellery Council & SAI workshops review the RJC Code of Practices
From July 2012 to November 2013, the RJC is revising the Code of Practices (COP), the standard against which all RJC Members seeking certification must demonstrate independently verified conformance. The Code of Practices is the cornerstone of RJC's Certification program and sets standards for responsible business practices for companies in the jewelry supply chain.
These companies operate in a wide range of sectors - from mining through to retail - and in a wide range of geographies. They include small, medium and large businesses. Any business in the gold, diamond or platinum group metals jewelry supply chain is welcome to join the RJC and seek Certification against the RJC Code of Practices.
SAI and the RJC invite you to participate in these workshops to discuss the proposed revisions and provide feedback. RJC & SAI will present these workshops on the following dates:
- February 26: Mumbai, India
- February 28: Surat, India
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Reflections on the ISEAL Credibility Principles & SA8000
Tata Steel notes its history & experience implementing SA8000
On December 5, 2012 in New Delhi, the ISEAL Alliance hosted a workshop on its upcoming Credibility Principles
. The workshop featured some lively debates about what makes a credible standard system, and included the participation of Priyadarshini Sharma, Sr. Manager, Vice President (CS) Office, Tata Steel, SAI India Program Director Rishi Sher Singh and SAI Training Manager Stephanie Wilson among 50 representatives from standard systems, capacity building organizations, businesses, certification bodies, investors, development agencies and government.
As panelist at the event, Ms. Sharma noted that many themes from the proposed credibility principles have emerged in the steel works' journey with the SA8000 Standard since its implementation and initial certification in 2004. These have served as building blocks to strengthen cross-functional participation and stakeholder engagement. She cited Tata Steel Managing Director, Mr. H.M. Nerurkar's address, made while receiving the second recertification in 2010, that standards were "going to get more stringent with time and that organizations would have to continuously strive to keep raising their own bar to meet them." Ms. Sharma added, "the ISEAL workshop to reflect on self-assessment, design and deliverables of voluntary standards, was a step in this direction."
Two recent innovations at Tata Steel in the course of implementing SA8000 were also highlighted and summarized by Ms. Sharma, "first, IBM, a Tata Steel strategic partner, factored Affirmative Action to engage the youth from tribal communities in its local work force through a global agreement. Second, Tata Steel incorporated an environmental check-list during vendor audits on the SA8000 clauses. The next steps were extending the management review to include human rights. Scalability, relevance, adaptability, and flexibility to connect across other systems are some of the evolutionary ways at the implementation end of the SA standard at Tata Steel."
This article was written with contributions from Priyadarshini Sharma, Sr. Manager, Vice President (CS) Ofﬁce, Tata Steel. For more information, contact SAI Communications Manager, Joleen Ong - JOng@sa-intl.org.
Social Fingerprint: Measure & Improve Your Social Performance
Feedback from Timberland & STX Vietnam on User Experience
Since SAI first launched Social Fingerprint in 2010, over 500 companies globally have signed up to use it in their company and in their supply chain, to measure and improve their social performance. Two online courses have been released: "Social Fingerprint: Getting Started in Your Company" and "Building Your Internal Social Performance Team" - which have been integrated into SAI Corporate Programs and capacity building programs.
Major companies from such diverse industries as Timberland in the apparel and footwear sector, and STX Vietnam in the shipbuilding sector have been using Social Fingerprint and have noted its impact:
"Since we've been using Social Fingerprint we have noticed a real improvement in the openness of the communication between the factory manager and our staff on how they go about managing social/labor conditions. The factories have become even more engaged with us. When they get their Social Fingerprint score they want to know how they compare to the other Timberland suppliers and what they can do to improve. Social Fingerprint has proven itself as a very useful communication tool in establishing a clear road map and work plan for improving social/labor management systems."
- Colleen Von Haden, Senior Manager of Supplier Sustainability, Timberland
"Our cooperation with SAI has increased our awareness of social and working conditions at the yard, as it emphasized the importance of systemic approaches in daily work. As we build trust with our customers, we simultaneously want to be a trusted employer. Our yard in Vung Tau is a Greenfield Investment literally built on our long experiences as a recognized Norwegian shipbuilder. We developed the yard in accordance with our high quality standards and trained our Vietnamese employees into skilled shipbuilders." -Roger Vassdal, General Director of STX Vietnam
As SAI Grows, Congratulations are in Order
SAI is very pleased to announce promotions at our dedicated teams in New York & Bangalore
SAI Staff Members (from left): Christie Daly, Manager of Corporate Programs; Rishi Sher Singh, SAI India Program Director; Stephanie Wilson, SAI Training Manager
Christie Daly, Manager of Corporate Programs
Ms. Daly has been promoted to the role of Manager of Corporate Programs. She has excelled in multiple functions at SAI over her three years serving in the executive office, lastly as Coordinator of Executive and Corporate Services. In her new role, Ms. Daly will manage service delivery to Corporate Members, including Social Fingerprint evaluations, supplier and supply chain management trainings and multi-stakeholder panels, and support the expansion and utilization of SAI capacity building programs. She will also provide project management and research support for programs such as the Brazil Worker Engagement Program. During the 2013 transition into her new role, Ms. Daly will remain responsible for matters related to SAI's Advisory Board and Board of Directors.
Before joining SAI, Ms. Daly worked as a Project Associate at the NYC Department of Education in the Office of Public and Community Affairs. She received a Master's Degree from NYU's Center for Global Affairs with a concentration in Human Rights and Humanitarian Assistance and her BA from Skidmore. During an internship at NYU School of Law Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, she conducted research on business and human rights issues.
Rishi Sher Singh, India Program Director
In his past two years as SAI India Project Director, Mr. Singh has managed partnerships and projects on the ground in India, most notably the SAI-BSCI-GIZ development partnership and the DFID RAGS project. He has managed the development and delivery of well-received workshops and trainings for 100+ apparel companies, potentially touching many thousands of workers. He has meaningfully expanded our network of partners and stakeholders, impressing many with his dialogue-driven approach and his commitment to broadening and deepening our impact.
In his new role as India Program Director, Mr. Singh will continue the successful fulfillment of the PPP and RAGS projects in mid-2013, looking forward to applications and expansions to other sectors and regions in the near future. He will work with HQ on a business plan for the region, and promote and manage the growth of training, technical assistance and corporate memberships. He will deliver and support new curricula and research to enhance the credibility and impact assessment of SA8000 and other SAI programs. He will manage our stakeholder relations and initiate and support new multi-stakeholder advisory committees in various sectors in the region.
Mr. Singh joined SAI with extensive prior experience in manufacturing and supply chain management, including years at an automotive supplier and also at Hewlett Packard. He received his Bachelor's in Mechanical Engineering from Guru Nanak Dev Engineering College, and has a long-standing interest in social responsibility and labor standards.
Stephanie Wilson, Training Manager
Upon joining SAI a year ago, Stephanie quickly learned to juggle multiple responsibilities as SAI Training Coordinator. She helped exceed our 2012 participation goals for auditor training and significantly improved operations and processes for all of our courses in general. Colleagues and partners have frequently cited her professionalism and dedication to SAI's mission, as well as her inspiring volunteer efforts outside the office.
In her new role as Training Manager, Stephanie will manage the planning, operations and expansion of all public classroom trainings, including Auditor, Professional Development and Social Fingerprint courses. She will supervise the trainers for these courses and manage their qualification, work-planning and calibration. In addition, she will contribute to the development of training curricula and publications.
Ms. Wilson joined SAI with extensive experience from her prior position as Training Coordinator for global IT training company IDC technologies. She has a long-standing interest in development and human rights and has done extensive volunteer work, most significantly in Australia and India. She is in the final stages of her Master's Degree in International & Community Development from Deakin University in Australia.
SAI is hiring! Chief Operating Officer in New York and offering internships in New York and India. Learn more at www.sa-intl.org/careers.
For more information, please contact SAI Communications Manager Joleen Ong - JOng@sa-intl.org.
SA8000 Auditor Training in Bangkok
|Group photo of participants from the Basic SA8000 Auditor Training course in Bangkok on January 21-25, 2013. View more photos at http://on.fb.me/Vh9KHi & feedback from participants. [Photo credit: Badri Gulur]|
On January 21-25, 2013 SAI convened an Basic SA8000 Auditor Training course in Bangkok, Thailand hosted by SGS. The course was led by SAI Lead Trainer, Badri Gulur. The course was attended by 22 delegates from countries, that included Thailand, Cambodia, Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan, Myanmar and Kenya. Prior to this course, Mr. Gulur led a SA8000 Advanced Auditor Training course in Bangkok, Thailand. Special thanks to Phanom Hutaphaiboon from SGS for actively coordinating with SAI and organizing these courses.
To see more photos from the SA8000 auditor training courses, check out SAI's Facebook page @on.fb.me/UxpJNc .
SAI training courses are designed to encourage proficiency in social compliance and emphasize the implementation of management systems in combination with performance elements. These courses are required for all SA8000 and BSCI auditors, and are just as valuable to internal auditors, buyers, managers and workers for auditing to any labor code or standard. The courses are open to all.
Complimentary seats for NGOs & trade unions: SAI knows that NGOs and trade unions are critical in helping to ensure human rights at work around the world. As class sizes vary based on venue capacity, we limit these complimentary seats to one representative per class.
For more information, contact SAI Training Manager, Stephanie Wilson at SWilson@sa-intl.org.
Meet SAI's New Intern: Carley Clement
We are pleased to introduce Ms. Clement, in her own words:
"I am a junior at New York University studying Latin American Studies and Social and Public Policy. I just returned to New York after studying abroad last semester in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which only further galvanized my passion for the Spanish language and the politics and culture of Latin America. I am particularly interested in advocating for social justice issues in Latin America, especially issues of human rights in the work place, equal employment opportunities, and alleviation of extreme poverty.
I am so excited to be working at SAI this semester to learn more about how global business contributes to injustice in the workplace around the world, and what steps can be taken to ameliorate such human rights abuses in the global supply chain."
For more information, contact Ms. Clement at CClement@sa-intl.org. To learn more about SAI Internships in New York and India, please visit www.sa-intl.org/careers.
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Highlights & Announcements
Business Ethics Series at Yale University On Monday, February 18, SAI President Alice Tepper Marlin gave the Mars Family lecture on Business Ethics at Yale University, in which she focused on a variety of CSR issues, including challenges faced by brands in managing their global supply chains. The following day, she led Susan Rose-Ackerman's seminar "Ethics and the Multinational Business Firm" for a group of undergraduate students interested in working in the business and non-profit sectors. Learn more @bit.ly/12PaAN6
The Socially Conscious Consumer In the latest issue of McKinsey & Co's Voices on Society, it explores the impact of the socially conscious consumer on environmental and economic sustainability. Also, test you Socially Conscious Consumer Quotient to determine what kind of consumer you are. Read on @bit.ly/XbYVkF.