Sedex publishes SMETA 5.0 – An Overview of the Main Changes

In December 2014, Sedex published Issue 5.0 of its SMETA Audit Format. The new version contains several enhancements and consolidates the position of the SMETA methodology as one of the most useful tools for social auditing currently available. In this article, we would like to walk you through the main changes and updates of issue 5.0, writing from our perspective as audit company.

What is SMETA 5.0?

Like its predecessor, SMETA 4.0, SMETA 5.0 is an audit format that describes good practice in ethical auditing. As one of the most commonly used ethical audit methodologies in the world, SMETA plays an important role in the effort to ensure responsible sourcing and transparency in supply chains. SMETA audits focus on labour standards, health & safety in the workplace, and optionally also on environmental aspects and ethical business practices.

Because the SMETA methodology is recognized by an ever increasing number of companies and the audit results can be shared in the Sedex Database, the unified methodology reduces audit duplication and lightens the burden for suppliers.

What’s new in SMETA 5.0?

ETI Base CodeAlthough SMETA 5.0 provides a number of improvements, it preserves the structure and underlying principles of its predecessors. There are hardly any new requirements and suppliers that are already in conformity with SMETA 4.0 should not have significant problems with the update. This is hardly a surprise, given the fact that SMETA is based upon the ETI Base Code, which has not seen major changes in the last couple of years.

Working hours

However, there has been one amendment to the ETI Base Code earlier in 2014, with changes to clause 6 (“Working hours are not excessive”).  The primary aim of this clause remains the same: to ensure that workers do not work excessive hours, that they have at least one day off per week, and that their overtime is voluntary and appropriately compensated. Two changes, reflected in SMETA 5.0 and in the report template, are worth noting:

  • Whereas the ETI Base Code previously only mentioned that overtime had to be compensated at a premium rate, it now recommends 125 % of the regular rate as a minimum compensation. The Associate Auditor Group (AAG) instructs auditors to raise a compensation of less than 125 % as a non-conformity, to make this visible in the Sedex database.
  • Like before, the ETI Base Code states that regular working hours per week shall not exceed 48 hours, with a maximum of an additional 12 hours as voluntary overtime, totaling to 60. However, clause 6.5 now allows for exceptions where the amount of working hours exceeds 60, if all of the following conditions are met:
    • This is allowed by national law
    • this is allowed by a collective agreement freely negotiated with a workers’ organisation
    • representing a significant portion of the workforce;
    • appropriate safeguards are taken to protect the workers’ health and safety; and
    • the employer can demonstrate that exceptional circumstances apply such as unexpected production peaks, accidents or emergencies.

Further information on the interpretation of this clause can be found here.

Asbestos, Land Rights, Biodiversity and Business Ethics

Minor additions to the document review include checking the availability of an asbestos policy (3.3 u), land rights (0.10) and biodiversity policies (only in the extended environmental pillar). In the optional pillar on business ethics, the auditor is also required to report on any fines or (pending) prosecutions for non-compliance to business ethics regulations.

SMETA Best Practice Guidance 5.0

The new SMETA Best Practice Guidance

Two New Chapters: Measuring Impacts and Worker-Management Dialogue

The document with the measurement criteria contains two new chapters, but these are purely informative in nature and do not posit any new requirements. The first chapter, “Measuring Impacts”, deals with the question of how SMETA can be used to record the effects of ethical audits form the perspective of the people working at audited sites. The second chapter “Encouraging Worker-Management Dialogue” outlines the opportunities within the current SMETA format for recording worker-management dialogue.

Where can I find the relevant documents?

SMETA guidance has now been split into 2 parts, with one part describing the audit methodology (called “Best Practice Guidance” – BPG) and the second part details Measurement Criteria. Both documents can be downloaded from the Sedex website for free and without registration. Also available for download are a template for the SMETA audit report and a template for the corrective action plan.

Does DQS provide ethical audits according to SMETA 5.0?

Yes, we do. DQS is a member of the Sedex Audit Company Group. All of our ethical auditors have received extensive training on the SMETA methodology. We have auditors all over the globe and use local auditors whenever possible. Contact us to learn more!

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About the Author

Dr. Thijs Willaert is Director of Marketing & Communication at DQS CFS GmbH


  1. 18/02/2015 at 14:40

    […] En diciembre de 2014, Sedex publicó la Edición 5.0 de su formato de Auditoría SMETA. La nueva versión no incluye ningún cambio importante, pero contiene varias mejoras y consolida la posición de la metodología SMETA como una de las herramientas más útiles para la auditoría social disponibles en la actualidad. DQS-UL CFS ha publicado recientemente un artículo que nos guía a través de los principales cambios y actualizaciones de la edición 5.0 des de su perspectiva como sociedad de auditoría (ver artículo original aquí). […]

    Reply »
  2. 01/02/2015 at 13:43

    Hello: What are te requirements to bebote an audit firm? I am an independent auditor With 10 years of experience. Best regards

    Reply »
    • Dr. Thijs Willaert
      Dr. Thijs Willaert (Author)
      02/02/2015 at 07:36

      Dear Christian, thanks for your question. Sedex itself does not test or approve auditors or audit firms - it is up to the client to select a suitable auditor. That being said, Sedex has compiled a document "SMETA Guide to Social Systems Auditor Competencies", which gives a clear description of what an auditor should be capable of. Hope this helps, Thijs

      Reply »

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