Ethical Performance
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Work begins on global social auditing standard

December 2008

A step towards developing international social auditor standards has been taken in the US, with the backing of the Department of State’s Office of International Labour Affairs.

The department will work with the social auditing body Verité and the non-profit Center for Reflection, Education and Action (CREA) to produce standards defining the ‘skills, knowledge and competence of social auditors’.

CREA is a US-based social and economic research institution that has taken an interest in corporate responsibility for ten years, while Verité is a non-profit company that was established in 1995 and advises on social auditing in 70 countries.

The first stage of the Social Monitoring Standards Project has involved a survey of the views of stakeholders, including companies, non-governmental organizations, social auditor groups, consultancies and investors.

Hundreds of interested parties have participated and the results will be analysed this month. An online area will be established to gather further comments until April.

Face-to-face and online ‘discussion forums’ will follow next spring and summer, and a panel of experts, as yet unnamed, will start drawing up draft standards in July. Pilot testing will start in the autumn, and the project is scheduled to finish in December 2009.

Project organizers have emphasized that the aim is to reach a consensus on what will be required before drafting, rather than producing concrete proposals first. ‘We’re not starting with a predetermined standard and then seeking comment,’ said CREA.

‘We will focus on generating ideas and then facilitating consensus around the basic principles and elements that constitute standards-setting for social auditors.’

Issues likely to be covered by the standard include:

 the minimum amount and type of experience required for a social auditor to be certified

 audit preparation and planning

 how to gather useful information from workers while being sensitive to gender and cultural considerations

 methods of reviewing workplace records and conducting inspections.

The project is the State Department’s second recent involvement in corporate responsibility. It is also providing $2million (£1.34m) for a 36-month project to build a company network of ‘CSR champions’ in Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua (EP9, issue 7, p3).

The new initiative is not the first to attempt to set down standards in the social auditing field; in 2004 the AccountAbility think tank and the International Register of Certified Auditors established a certification scheme for social auditors (EP6, issue 7, p6). However, that scheme did not to lay down wider standards on social auditing.

US Department of State’s Office of International Labour Affairs | Global | Standards

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