In the consumer goods industry, BRC Global Standards is widely recognized as one of the leading certification scheme owners for product quality and safety. With the new Global Standard for Ethical Trade & Responsible Sourcing, BRC is taking its experience with scheme management into the area of responsible sourcing. In this article, we provide an overview of what to expect from the new scheme.
Do we really need another ethical standard? No, we do not – unless it adds significant value to existing standards and schemes. That, in a nutshell, is the ambition of BRC with its new Ethical Trade & Responsible Sourcing Standard: to create an auditing and certification scheme for social compliance that is more robust, more credible and more impactful than other schemes out there.
So how does the standard aim to do this? Let’s take a look at the audit protocol and the audit criteria. Please note that this article is currently based on the draft version, which is subject to change.
- The Global Standard for Ethical Trade and Responsible Sourcing is a certification. Unlike many other social compliance schemes, sites that meet the full requirements obtain a BRC certificate that confirms their compliance.
- With certification comes oversight of the certification bodies: BRC will use its extensive experience as a scheme owner to monitor the performance of the certification bodies, in order to safeguard the effectiveness, quality and integrity of the certification process. Only auditors and certification bodies approved and monitored by BRC Global Standards will be able to conduct audits.
- BRC proposes a risk-based process, in which risk is not based on external parameters like reputation of the country, but solely on the performance of the site itself, thereby avoiding bias and prejudice. The procedure will consist of a risk assessment audit and a full ethical audit – the result of sites during the former determines the frequency of the latter.
- The Global Standard for Ethical Trade & Responsible Sourcing makes use of the synergies between BRC product safety audits and ethical audits, by enabling the risk assessment audit to be combined with the product safety audit.
- The intention is to submit the new scheme for benchmarking to the Sustainable Supply Chain Initiative (SSCI), which fulfils a similar role for social compliance audits as GFSI benchmarking does for product safety audits.
- All audit criteria are aligned with other social compliance standards and protocols, most notably Sedex SMETA in order to ensure consistency.
Involvement of DQS
The Global Standard for Ethical Trade & Responsible Sourcing is the result of a multistakeholder process, involving retailers, suppliers, certification bodies and ethical trade experts. As one of the leading certification bodies for BRC audits as well as social compliance audits, DQS is happy to contribute.
Dr. Thijs Willaert, who represents DQS in the BRC Ethical Trade Working Group is looking forward to the outcome of the public consultation: “In terms of the assessment criteria, we have reached a point of great convergence: almost all standards and schemes for social compliance cover the same issues. The focus is therefore shifting to the governance aspects: who audits, who monitors the auditors and audit firms, and how can we benchmark the different schemes? BRC Global Standards has great experience in this regard and can help ensure the credibility of certification.”
In order to gather feedback from retailers, suppliers, certification bodies, auditors and other stakeholders, BRC has published a draft version of the audit protocol and the audit criteria on their website. Feedback can be submitted by email to email@example.com using the online Feedback Form. The closing date for the submission of feedback is 10 February 2019.