SA8000 Sets A Standard

One of the new social accountability standards that factories are being audited against is SA8000. The standard was developed and is maintained by Social Accountability International (SAI), a New York-based non-profit organization funded by grants from foundations, international development organizations and the U.S. government. As the name implies, SA8000 is partly modeled after the ISO quality and environmental system standards. As such, in addition to specific requirements regarding child labor, forced labor, safety, working hours, fair pay and the right to form and join trade unions, the standard outlines requirements for a management system that supports a factory's commitment to humane labor practices. "The management system itself is designed to put in place and maintain the systems that provide those good working conditions and enable [the factory] to reap productivity gains," states SAI President Alice Tepper Marlin. SAI itself doesn't audit any facilities, but it accredits auditing firms and individual auditors to certify compliance with the social accountability standard. "The objective we're working for is not to divide factories into those that are acceptable and not acceptable" so that companies only do business with the companies that are doing well, says Tepper Marlin. "The objective is to provide incentives and assistance to build capacity, to have good human relations and good working conditions in all factories and farms." As of March 2002, 118 facilities from 25 industries and 24 countries were SA8000 certified.

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