Overview of the Accreditation Application Process
The initial accreditation process includes an assessment by SAAS through a document review, on-site office audits and observation of auditors conducting SA8000 audits. SAAS undertakes impartial assessment of CBs to assure that the SAAS-accredited certification process is functioning and meets the SAAS criteria.
Below is an overview of the initial accreditation process. Learn more by downloading a Description of the Initial Accreditation Process by SAAS for SA8000 from the Document Library.
1. Download an application package. The application package consists of the requirements and documents needed to set up a SAAS-accredited certification system and can be downloaded through our website.
2. Document and procedure preparation. The organization seeking to become a SAAS-accredited certification body must prepare documents and procedures to meet SAAS-specific requirements, detailed in SAAS Procedure 200. Applicant organizations must also base their certification management system on the requirements found in ISO/IEC 17021-1:2015, detailing the requirements for bodies operating assessment and certification of quality systems.
3. Document and records review. After the organization prepares its documents and procedures, it may submit an application and documents, along with the required application fee to SAAS. Once the package is received, SAAS staff will check to ensure that the materials submitted are complete and assign a SAAS lead auditor to conduct a review of the submitted materials to confirm that the applicant has a documented certification management system that meets the requirements set forth by SAAS. This document review process takes approximately two days of the auditor's time, which is billed to the applicant.
4. Office audit. If the documents received meet the criteria set out for accreditation, an office audit of the applicant can be scheduled. The purpose of the office audit is to assess the degree and effectiveness of the implementation of the applicant certification body’s system within its defined scope. During the office audit, the SAAS accreditation auditors will review the organization's procedures, documents, records and files, and conduct interviews with staff. The office audit may result in the issuance of non-conformities. Such non-conformities must be addressed prior to moving forward in the accreditation process.
5. Witness audit. Witness audits are scheduled pending satisfactory results of the document review and initial office audit. The purpose of the witness audit is to assess the degree and effectiveness of the implementation of the applicant certification body’s system and to determine the certification body auditors’ competence. SAAS auditors observe the applicant CB's SA8000 auditor conducting an audit at an organization against the SA8000 Standard - to ensure it is following its own certification procedures and that the procedures are effective. The witnessed audits must be initial certification audits, therefore, it is necessary for the applicant CB to have a client willing to go through the process of certification with the intention of becoming certified once the accreditation process is complete. Again, the witness audit may result in the issuance of non-conformities. Such non-conformities must be addressed prior to moving forward in the accreditation process.
6. Final report and audit team recommendations. Once the office and witness audits have been completed, a final report and the audit team’s recommendations on accreditation will be drafted. These recommendations are reviewed by the Accreditation Review Panel (ARP). The ARP has 30 days to recommend granting or refusal of accreditation. At that time, the Executive Director makes a final decision on granting accreditation.
As this process is very detailed and thorough, and contains many steps depending on the readiness of the individual applicant certification body to ensure quality SA8000 audits, there is no set timeline. This process could take anywhere from 6 months to more than a year.
7. Maintenance of accreditation. When an organization becomes accredited, its accreditation is valid for a period of four years. During this time, SAAS carries out periodic surveillance office and witness audits of the accredited certification body, at a minimum of twice annually, to verify that the CB continues to comply with the accreditation criteria. The number of surveillance audits is determined by the number of certifications granted by the CB and the scope of accreditation granted to the CB by SAAS.
8. Re-accreditation. At the end of the 4-year cycle, the CB must undergo re-accreditation, including steps 3-6 listed above.
For more details on the process of accreditation, please review all of the information found in Procedure 201A, which can be downloaded directly from the Document Library. Details include:
- Routes to Accreditation
- Application Process
- Estimated Initial Accreditation Audit Days
- Process Requirements for Accreditation
- Initial Assessment
- Continuance of Accreditation
- Complaints Management