Complaints and Appeals

Complaint procedures and grievance mechanisms are an essential part of labor relations as they provide a means for workers and other interested parties to directly address problems in the workplace.  The commitment to respond to complaints by workers and other interested parties is a common characteristic in a well-functioning complaints system. The SA8000 Standard requires that certified organisations maintain an effective complaints process so that employees, personnel and other stakeholders can raise concerns and those concerns will be thoroughly investigated.

SAAS has established an internal procedure and instructions to address how complaints and appeals may be made by Certification Bodies (CBs) and other interested stakeholders against the accreditation process and resultant decisions made by SAAS. A complaint received by SAAS will be reviewed, investigated and appropriate action taken to resolve the concern. 

Complaints are variously directed to Certified Organisations, CBs and SAAS.  In this system, the complaint is handled by the closest agent to the source of the complaint.  For example, if the complaint is against the SA8000 system or certification of an organisation, then the CB will be responsible for the follow up. If the complainant is not satisfied with the results, it can then complaint to the next level up for review (worker to management, to CB and to SAAS).

Complaints about SA8000 certification and/or accreditation decisions and procedures are lodged by stakeholders and may allege improper certification of a facility or improper procedures by the CB in certifying a facility.  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. 

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.

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

1) Concerns 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) Concerns 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) Concerns 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.


Submitting a Complaint

All complaints and appeals must fall within the scope of SAAS accreditation and/or certification criteria in order to be accepted as a complaint or appeal.  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 complaint, please contact Lisa Bernstein.   


General Guidelines:
Complaints and concerns may be made against SAAS, an individual CB, or SA8000-certified company.  Complaints should address acts that are:

  • current;
  • specific;
  • serious, and/or systemic; and  
  • violations of the SAAS accreditation or certification methodology or the SA8000 Standard.
Any person or entity may file a complaint 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.

To assist in the analysis and investigation, the complaint should include the following: 
  1. objective evidence of the violation; 
  2. documentation supporting the violation;  
  3. evidence that direct requests were made to the certified organization and that the organization had not acted on them (if applicable) ; and,  
  4. evidence that the company’s internal grievance process was not carried out.

For further information about the investigative process, see SAAS Procedure 304.  SAAS maintains data on all formal accreditation complaints that are received through the complaints and appeals process as part of SAAS’s transparency initiative.

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.