Complaints, Concerns, and Grievances

In order to be credible, a certification program must be responsive to the various types of dissatisfaction that may relate to the certified organisation, a SAAS-accredited certification body, or SAAS itself. 

For the certification programs it oversees, SAAS defines and implements extensive processes to address various allegations of wrongdoing, incorrect decision-making, and other program dissatisfaction. Under most circumstances, an allegation is best handled by the closest agent to the source of the dissatisfaction. Allegations should, therefore, be routed to (or will be assigned to) certified organisations, certification bodies, or within SAAS itself, as appropriate. For example, if the allegation of wrongdoing relates to the certification validity of a certified organisation, the certification body is responsible for the investigation and follow-up. 

Each allegation and investigation outcome is handled and communicated in a non-discriminatory manner that provides an appropriate balance between openness and confidentiality. Each credible allegation received by SAAS is acknowledged and routed appropriately for investigation and resolution. The complainant is informed throughout the process and ultimately receives notification of the outcome from the assigned investigating party (the certified organisation, certification body, or SAAS). 

General Process

Allegations of wrongdoing, incorrect decision-making, or other dissatisfaction may be made against SAAS, an individual certification body, or a certified organisation.  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 applicable Standard; and 
  • wherever practicable, allegations shall be submitted in English. 

To be accepted for review, each allegation must:

  • fall within the scope of the (SAAS accredited) certification scheme);
  • be made in writing (with the assistance from a second-party if needed – e.g. for translation into English).


Complainants should note that:

  • As an accreditation/oversight body, SAAS does not make certification decisions and is not directly accountable for wrong-doing at a certified facility. Under the SAAS-administered complaint program, however, certification bodies are contractually obligated to evaluate and respond to allegations regarding organisations they have certified. SAAS routinely oversees these processes through its monitoring program and, where necessary, through direct oversight of (and potentially involvement with) the certification body’s complaint-handling activities.  Should an accredited certification body fail to handle complaints effectively and in accordance with program requirements, the certification body’s accreditation certificate may be suspended or withdrawn. 
  • While investigation outcomes are always communicated, due to legal and contractual constraints inherent in third-party certification programs, it is usually not possible for the investigating organisation to share with a complainant every detail of an investigation process, and/or actions taken by any party as a result the findings of the investigation.


Reporting and Escalation of Dissatisfaction

The reporting and escalation outline below defines how any interested party may raise and pursue allegations of wrongdoing or dissatisfaction related to SAAS-accredited certifications. 

Note: Deviations from this escalation process may be appropriate under exceptional circumstances.

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

2) Allegations concerning: The quality or outcomes of a Certification Body's (CB's) 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 concerning: The validity or integrity of a CB's 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: 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.

Allegations Escalated to SAAS - General

If, after following the ‘Reporting and Escalation’ sequence above, a complainant remains dissatisfied with the processes or outcomes of investigations by a certified organisation and certification body, the complainant may request SAAS consider the allegation(s). 

Any person or entity may raise an allegation or express dissatisfaction 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 requested 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. 

Allegations Escalated to SAAS - Initiation

All expressions of dissatisfaction 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.  
In order for an allegation to be thoroughly investigated, it is important that all available information be considered.  To the greatest extent possible, each allegation should: 
  • be individually stated;
  • be supported by additional evidence, such as names of individuals involved / impacted, dates, documents (if documented information is relevant to the allegation, attachments should be included if available); 
  • clearly reference applicable program requirements/expectations against which the allegation is made.
SAAS reserves the right to reject allegations that cannot be adequately justified or clarified by the complainant.

Allegations Escalated to SAAS - Investigation and Outcome Reporting

To be accepted for review, SAAS will review each allegation for acceptability.  The allegation/s is then 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.  

Upon completion, the complainant is advised in writing that the investigation has been carried out and 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.  

Certificates not Accredited by SAAS

SAAS accreditation provides independent confirmation of certification body integrity and competence to deliver a credible certification audit with a particular scheme.  Scheme owners (such as Social Accountability International for the SA8000 certification scheme) recognize only those certification bodies that are accredited by SAAS.  Some certification bodies that are not accredited (or that are accredited by an organisation other than SAAS), may offer an ‘alternative’ 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 and are not accepted by brands or retailers. To report the issuance of an unaccredited SA8000 certificate, or to inquire as to the validity of an SA8000 certificate, please contact SAAS.