Social Accountability International (SAI) - SA8000



Social Accountability International works to protect the integrity of workers around the world by building local capacity and developing systems of accountability through socially responsible standards.

SA8000 is a code of conduct verification and factory certification programme run by SAI. It is designed to enforce existing international agreements, including ILO conventions, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.



SAI is managed by a Board of Directors.  The Board of Directors has also established an SA8000 Advisory Board and directed it to provide the President of SAI with expert advice regarding the drafting, operation, policy, and development of SA8000.

The Advisory Board advises the President of SAI, who in turn reports to SAI’s Board of Directors.

In 2011, 40% of SAI's income came from grants, with the rest from earned income in training fees, corporate programmes and other sources. 



Corporate programme members include some prominent international brands.  

Social Accountability Accreditation Services (SAAS) accredit auditors to assess facilities against SA8000 standards.

As of 2015 there are 3,490 certified facilities across 65 industries in 72 countries employing nearly 1.9 million people. 


Member assessments:

SA8000 is widely used by companies with global supply chains, often in developing countries. The largest number of certified facilities are in Italy, India, China, Romania and Pakistan.

Due to the issues covered in SA8000, certified companies are normally from the apparel, textiles, manufacturing, or food manufacturing sectors.

Responsibility for choosing an accredited auditor and meeting standards lies solely with factory owners, while facilities seeking certification must go beyond simple compliance to integrate the standard into their management systems.

SA8000 standards are assessed by private auditors accredited by Social Accountability Accreditation Services (SAAS).



Sustainability consultancy firm ERM  has argued that there is a danger that a certification scheme becomes a process of managing paper work and documentation of evidence rather than a tool for changing behaviour and work-site culture.

The Maquila Solidarity Network has criticised SAI for the dominant role it gives to giant social auditing firms and the minimal role allowed for workers and Southern NGOs. 

SAI has also been criticised for its co-operation with the BSCI, which is seen as weakening the relatively strong SA8000 standards.

From academia, SAI has been criticized for not holding corporations directly accountable for labour conditions in their supplier factories. Instead, the onus is on these suppliers to pay for costs associated with audits and remediation.*



SA8000 does not have a consumer-facing label. Production facilities are the object of certification. SA8000 certification is not for specific items produced by certified facilities, but rather the process through which the products are made.

The SA8000 certificate is principally designed for factories to use to communicate social compliance to their buyers. Buyers sourcing from SAI-certified factories can then use SA8000 certification as evidence of social compliance to civil society.



Comprehensive factory lists are available on the SAAS website, as well as a list of accredited auditors.

SAI do not, however, share any information that links production facilities with buyer/brands.



*1 Braun, R 2011 Social Accountability International, in T Hale and D Held Eds. Handbook of Transnational Governance: Institutions and Innovations. Cambridge: Polity Press.



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