SMETA (Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audit) is the most widely used social audit in the world
SMETA is Sedex’s social auditing methodology, enabling businesses to assess their sites and suppliers to understand working conditions in their supply chain.
What is social auditing?
A social audit is one of the best ways to understand the working conditions at a supplier site. An auditor physically attends the site – or workplace – of a business, enabling the auditor to assess the conditions on the ground.
Social audits enable businesses to assess their suppliers, monitor health and safety for workers, and signal zero tolerance of human rights abuses such as child and forced labour. Once an audit is complete, buyer and supplier businesses can work together to address any issues, based on a Corrective Action Plan (CAPR).
Your business may choose to request an audit of a supplier’s site after reviewing data from the supplier’s Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ) responses, or their inherent risk score in our risk assessment tool. Your business may instead choose to use Sedex Virtual Assessment, Sedex’s solution for conducting remote audits.
Alternatively, one of your customers may request for a SMETA audit to be conducted at one of your business’ sites. The audit will help provide visibility of working conditions at your site to your customer, and provide you with a Corrective Action Plan (CAPR) you can use to improve working conditions. This in turn can help attract new customers into working with your business. What’s more, you need only complete a SMETA audit at a site once and you can share it with multiple customers via the Sedex platform.
SMETA, the world’s leading social audit
SMETA (Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audit) assesses a site based on their organisation’s standards of labour, health and safety, environment and business ethics. Sedex believes these are key areas for assessing an organisation’s responsible business practices and meeting social compliance.
SMETA is designed to help auditors conduct high quality audits that encompass all aspects of responsible business practice. It is also designed for suppliers to share one audit with multiple customers, meeting multiple customer requirements and reducing duplication and audit fatigue. Only audit companies (and their auditors) that meet a set of criteria set out by Sedex can conduct SMETA. These are known as a Sedex Affiliate Audit Company, and are independent organisations from Sedex.
The auditing process
What is an Affiliate Audit Company?
An Affiliate Audit Company (AAC) is a third-party that is authorised to deliver SMETA audits on behalf of your business. Only audit companies with a Sedex Affiliate Audit Company account can conduct SMETA audits and access the functionalities and benefits of the Sedex Advance system, which audit companies can use to manage data from multiple locations in one account.
It is up to you which AAC your business chooses to work with. See our full list of AACs.
Over 40,000 SMETA audits are uploaded onto the Sedex platform every year.
SMETA workflow guidance
If you are new to SMETA and want to know more about ethical auditing and SMETA you can find step by step guidance below. Whether you are a supplier preparing for your SMETA audit, an auditor using SMETA or a buyer who needs their suppliers audited.
“For us the business case is simple. We need to ensure that the suppliers we partner with are working in an ethical manner, and SMETA offers robust ethical audits that help inform and guide us when making these decisions. And because our suppliers can share those audits with multiple buyers, we all avoid unnecessary duplication, saving time and money across the supply chain.”Sharon Childs – Finance Director and Head of Sustainability at The Sourcing Team
SMETA is available to all Sedex Members.
Buyer or Buyer/Supplier Members can conduct SMETA for their own sites and auditors with a Sedex Affiliate Audit Company (AAC) account can conduct SMETA.
All auditors are required to pay a fee to access SMETA or upload a non-SMETA audit to the Sedex platform. This cost is fixed and will be charged directly to the audit company:
- SMETA Audits are £50 per audit for Sedex Members
- Non-SMETA Audits are £200 per audit for Sedex Members
For more information, please contact [email protected].
Improving SMETA audit data
In June 2020 Sedex launched an Audit Quality Programme designed to raise the quality of SMETA audits, improve the detection and reporting of onsite issues and ensure consistency of auditing techniques, amongst Sedex’s pool of Affiliate Audit Companies.
The latest version of SMETA, 6.1, was updated in May 2019. You can access the full summary guide about the changes here.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will SMETA available in languages other than English?
SMETA is available in English, Spanish and Mandarin. Where reports and CAPRs are needed in a language other than English, these should be dual language and must include English.
My customer has requested a SMETA audit of my site – what do I need to do next?
Our e-Learning module ‘You are going to be audited – steps and SMETA guidance for suppliers’ is available for all Sedex supplier members. This e-Learning module will guide you through the steps you can follow to prepare for a SMETA audit. Please login to Sedex Advance to access Sedex e-Learning.
What guidance is available for SMETA users?
There are a series of guidance documents to help you understand what to expect from a SMETA audit, actions you can take to prepare for your audit, and how to address any non-compliances (NCs).
Guidance on Operational Practice and Indicators of Forced Labour – How to spot the signs of actual, likely or possible cases of forced labour, for both auditors and audit readers.
SMETA supplement for service providers – Guidance supplement for assessing working conditions for employees of service providers and contractors working at sites of Sedex member companies or remotely from their employer’s operation.
Additional documents are available specifically for Sedex members via Sedex e-Learning.
What other types of audits does Sedex accept?
Sedex Advance will accept any type of first-party, second-party and third-party ethical audit:
- First-party audit: An audit performed within an organisation by the organisation’s own auditing resource (internal audit). This will often highlight areas for improvement which can be corrected before a visit from an external auditor.
- Second-party audit: Audits of contractors/suppliers undertaken by or on behalf of a purchasing organisation. These can be used to identify problems which can be worked on together.
- Third-party audit: Audits of organisations undertaken by an independent certification body or registrar or similar third-party organisation. This is the most commonly used audit for most Sedex members and is widely accepted as more impartial.
All of the above audits can be useful. However, it is important to check your customer’s requirements before committing to a particular audit type.
Check local law
You can check the law for your region on the NATLEX Database – a database of national labour, social security and related human rights legislation maintained by the ILO’s International Labour Standards Department. Some auditing companies may also provide this service for you.
The Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) has some useful resources on ethical and social auditing.
How do I feedback on SMETA?
We are keen to hear from SMETA users of all kinds. Your feedback will help shape future versions of SMETA and best practice documents. To tell us what you think, please fill in one of our short online forms:
Do I have to be a Sedex member to share my SMETA audit with my customer?
Yes, only businesses who are Sedex Members will be permitted to have a SMETA audit (whether full or follow up) conducted by an Affiliate Audit Company. Businesses which want to undertake a SMETA audit will need to be registered and have an active account on the Sedex platform. In order for your audit to be uploaded to the Sedex platform, you must first be a member. Signing up is easy and can be completed in minutes.
SMETA guidance documentation
Download the SMETA guidance documents to support you through the SMETA audit process.
Sedex Guidance for members during the coronavirus pandemic
Sedex’s guidance document seeks to provide buyers, suppliers and audit firms with:
- Guidance on managing labour standard compliance
- Clarity on the SMETA audit process
Sedex will review this guidance regularly as the situation changes.
Sedex Audit Quality Programme
Sedex has developed an Audit Quality Programme to improve the quality of SMETA and audit data, to drive positive change in responsible sourcing for our members. As part of this programme we are reviewing and developing the processes for:
1. Selecting audit companies who can become an Affiliate Audit Company and can conduct SMETA audits
2. Ensuring compliance with the Sedex Auditor Rules, including dealing with complaints and grievances that may arise from time to time
3. Supporting our AACs by providing guidance, training and access to Sedex tools
4. Managing the performance of our AACs and exiting terminating our partnership with the AACs who do not meet our requirements.
The Audit Quality Programme began in 2020 and will come into full effect from January 2021. Learn more here.