As part of the SAAS commitment to continual improvement, SAAS undertakes several activities to review and manage accreditation processes and oversight procedures.
Management of Complaints and Appeals
SAAS Procedures contain a set of guidelines and requirements that apply to all categories of complaints. For a complaint (or appeal) to be considered, two preliminary criteria must be met: first, the complaint or appeal must fall within the scope of SAAS accreditation activity (such as the certification activity of a CB-accredited by SAAS); second, all complaints and appeals must have objective evidence of non-conformance to SAAS accreditation and/or certification criteria set out by SAAS. Examples of such evidence include significant testimony or documented infractions.
Complaints systems are integral to an effective management system - they provide a means for workers and other interested parties to directly address problems in the workplace. Effective complaints management systems also allow certified facilities, CBs and other stakeholders to be alerted to improper labor practices. Importantly, a well-functioning complaints system has the potential to remedy problems that may be missed during an audit.
Complaints about SA8000 certification and/or accreditation decisions/procedures are lodged by stakeholders and may allege improper certification of a facility, or improper procedures (such as stakeholder consultation) by the CB in certifying facility. Such stakeholders include workers, NGOs, trade unions, brands and retailers purchasing from the facility, community groups and second party auditors and consultants. The CB is responsible to ensure their SA8000 client has a complaints system the worker has access to, along with their own internal CB complaints system that a worker may lodge a complaint to.
In general, complaints are best handled at the lowest level – meaning, it is expected that a complaint should be filed first and foremost within the certified facility. If it is not addressed at this stage, the complaint should be filed with the CB. The complaints should be filed with SAAS only after all other avenues for hearing complaints have been exhausted, or the complainant feels that their concerns have not been investigated and addressed properly. Thus, the SAAS complaints process in addressing SA8000 facility complaints is utilized only when a facility’s own grievance system has been exhausted, and when a CB’s responses have not adequately dealt with the allegations raised.
As an accreditation agency, SAAS expects that complaints concerning an accredited CB are first addressed by the CB. It is the responsibility of the Certification Body to manage complaints related to certified clients, whether filed initially with SAI/SAAS or with the CB directly – and if the complainant is not satisfied with the outcome of the CB investigation, then the complaint is raised with SAAS. In all situations, SAAS requires the CB to be in direct touch with the complainant.
SAAS Internal Audit
SAAS conducts annual internal audits of its management system to ensure that the organization adheres to its own documented procedures and the management system remains efficient and effective. Through the internal audit, SAAS identifies corrective and preventive actions to improve its management systems.
SAAS External Compliance Audit
SAAS internal systems must comply with the requirements of ISO/IEC 17011, which regulates how accreditation bodies like SAAS must operate. Organizations comply with the standard through an external audit of internal procedures and operating practices. The external audits conducted show SAAS in compliance with ISO 17011 requirements with minor nonconformities. Throughout the year, SAAS responds to nonconformities and opportunities for improvement identified in the external audit through root cause analysis, corrective action plans, and implementation of corrective and preventive action plans.
SAAS Management Review
The purpose of SAAS’s management review is to review the SAAS documented management system to ensure its effectiveness and continuing suitability. This review, conducted annually, is performed by the top management of SAAS and covers all aspects of the documented SAAS management system. The results of internal and external audits are reviewed at the Management Review meeting and enables opportunities for improvement to be highlighted. Due to the size of the organization, SAAS has chosen to conduct a series of management review meetings throughout the year.
The focus of the meetings include:
1) reviewing the outcomes of the internal and external audits
2) reviewing trends in corrective actions and identification of preventive actions to adopt
3) reviewing complaints and appeals and their outcomes
4) feedback from stakeholders and interested parties
5) reviewing the quality policy, objectives, implementation, and metrics.
Accreditation Review Panel
SAAS convenes an Accreditation Review Panel (ARP) whose members review audit reports of the Certification Bodies and any applications for accreditation to recommend to the Executive Director whether or not to accredit a CB. Those recommendations are given to the Executive Director who is then charged with making the final decision. The ARP is comprised of four members, appointed by the Board of Directors, consisting of independent technical experts and diverse stakeholders from the business and civil society sector. Committee members provide insight and technical guidance to SAAS on issues of accreditation and assist in ensuring impartial audit processes and accreditation decisions.
Accreditation Advisory Committee
The SAAS Advisory Committee was established to advise on and assist in developing strategy and procedures for sustaining and strengthening oversight of SAAS-accredited Certification Bodies. The Committee reviews current procedures on oversight and recommends best practices to ensure consistent, high quality audits by qualified auditors. The Committee consists of technical experts and stakeholder representatives from business and civil society and ensures a multi-disciplinary, multi-stakeholder approach to policy development. The committee also provides technical expertise on best practices and pilot program research.