Stakeholder Engagement: SA8000 in China

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Stakeholder Engagement: SA8000 in China

Interview with Supply Chain Sustainability and Labor Expert Rachelle Jackson
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SA8000 in China: Interview w/ #supplychain & #humanrights expert Rachelle Jackson (@csrmaven) frm @ArcheAdvisors


The SA8000 Standard is being reviewed in a process conducted every 5 years.  As done in the 2008 SA8000 Standard revision process, extensive multi-stakeholder consultation is being undertaken.
For this month's newsletter, SAI Senior Manager of Research and Stakeholder Relations Alex Katz interviewed one of the experts being consulted, Rachelle Jackson, Director of Sustainability and Innovation at Arche Advisors, about her extensive experience in the social compliance field and SA8000 implementation in China.
China is a major country for SA8000 certifications, with the third-highest number of certified facilities - 517, and of workers employed in SA8000 certified facilities - 322,678.
The interview focused on three areas: implementation challenges, trends and best practices observed.
Wednesday, July 24, 2013 - 3:15pm
Alex Katz: From your experience, what are the most challenging issues that factories may have to contend with in order to earn SA8000 certification?
Rachelle Jackson: In my opinion, perception is one of the biggest barriers for factories contemplating the SA8000 standard. Many factories are familiar with the SA8000 "brand" but not the practical requirements of the standard. We have encountered factory owners that think it is impossible to meet the SA8000 standard, especially the requirements on overtime hours. In actuality, the standard focuses on management systems and continuous improvement that could help lead to real progress on how such challenges are managed, but the misperception remains that it sets an unrealistically high bar.
AK: Out of the nine elements of the SA8000 Standard, what are some of the most challenging to comply with in China? 
RJ: The issue of excessive work hours remains one of the single biggest challenges in China. An inability or unwillingness to manage overtime in compliance with local laws has led to the perpetuation of fraudulent records as some factories try to fake their way through social compliance audits. This is a reflection of very real concerns around economic competitiveness, market realities that differ from the legal frameworks in place, and in many cases, a management team lacking the skills and tools to address complex management challenges. Viewed differently, SA8000 could be an opportunity to help management adopt a new perspective on compliance and gain skills to address these issues more effectively.
AK: Can you describe any remarkable practices you have seen at factories that either comply or would comply with SA8000 in order to address contextually difficult issues?
RJ: In response to the growing worker shortage of the last decade, China factories are doing more to court and retain workers. Wages are a big part of this. Paying the minimum wage or even above the minimum is critical if a factory wants a full workforce. While overtime pay may still be lacking, wages are increasing overall.
In addition, many factories are appointing a person responsible for social compliance or workplace safety, where these positions did not exist just a few years ago. It may be a sign of change in the market or attitudes toward compliance, or perhaps the need to have full-time staff in order to deal with the myriad compliance demands facing exporters today.
AK: Aside from the labor shortage, comprehensive working hour system (CWHS), and student labor, are there any social compliance trends going on in China at the moment that require auditors and brands to call subject matter experts for interpretation on what exactly the situation is and if it violates provincial law?
RJ: China's social insurance system - "hukou" - remains a nebulous area for compliance. While the government has passed legislation intended to secure insurance for migrant workers, factories continue to present waivers that preclude these legal obligations. There seems to be an infinite number of excuses for not providing all five required insurances to the entire workforce. Auditors often need to do additional due diligence on this topic to ensure the waivers are accepted at the local government level.
About Rachelle Jackson:
Rachelle Jackson has nearly two decades experience working on labor, human rights and traceability issues in global supply chains. She has worked in over 80 countries and conducted more than 1,500 compliance assessments across a range of industries, including manufacturing, agriculture, food processing and extractives. She recently served on the USDA Consultative Group to Eliminate Child Labor and Forced Labor on Imported Agricultural Products and is a member of the United Nations Global Compact Advisory Group on Supply Chain Sustainability and the Outdoor Industry Association's Down Traceability Task force. For more information, visit or follow Ms. Jackson on Twitter @csrmaven.
Learn more about the SA8000 Standard Revision at


Joleen Ong
Social Accountability International
Keywords: Business & Trade | Human Rights | Social Accountability International | csr | rachelle jackson | supply chain | sustainability