Ethical trade

About Sedex

Sedex Membership

The Sedex system

Ethical audits

If you can’t find your question in the above list, please contact us for further information.

Ethical trade

What is ethical trade?

Ethical trade can be defined as business practices that are socially responsible and protect the environment and the rights of workers.

Where can I find more information on ethical trade?

Information on ethical trade is available through organisations such as the Ethical Trade Initiative (ETI), International Labour Organisation (IL0) or UN Global Compact. Visit our Useful links page for more information.

My company is conforming to local and national law. Why do I still need to conform to ETI, ILO etc.?

Although local and national laws provide the basis of a company’s policies, internationally recognised standards such as the Ethical Trade Initiative (ETI) Base Code and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions have been created to drive convergence in policies and principles.


About Sedex

What codes is Sedex based on?

Sedex stores information on ethical and responsible practices covered by ILO Conventions, ETI Base Code, SA8000, ISO14001 and industry specific codes of conduct. Sedex members can use the information on the system to evaluate suppliers against any of these codes or the labour standards provisions in individual corporate codes. Sedex itself does not specify a particular code or state that suppliers have ‘passed’ or ‘failed’.

How does Sedex differ from other organisations such as the Ethical Trade Initiative (ETI)?

Sedex is an online database which allows companies to store and view data on ethical and responsible business practices. Sedex does not set any standards or determine the policy of its members. It is purely a tool for facilitating access to information.

Is Sedex just adding another level of bureaucracy?

No; Sedex aims to prevent the unnecessary duplication of information. We are driving convergence in ethical trade and believe that Sedex can actually help to reduce bureaucracy. By becoming a member of Sedex you only have to fill out one questionnaire and can share this with multiple customers.

Is the information on Sedex accurate?

The rules of Sedex require members to use their best endeavours to ensure that the information placed on Sedex is correct. However, we do not verify or validate this information. If you need validation of the data we suggest that you request a third party ethical audit to be conducted at the supplier’s site.

I’m a supplier and I already provide self-assessment and audit information to my customers; what are the benefits of Sedex for me?

Sedex provides an efficient and cost effective way of communicating with your customers, by making one set of data available to multiple customers. This helps reduce the need for multiple audits, allowing both parties to concentrate on making improvements.

How can the Sedex Self Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ) help my company?

Completing the SAQ can help you to identify important issues in ethical and responsible trade. The SAQ can also be used to help compile a company’s code of conduct.

If I’m on Sedex, does that mean I’m an approved supplier?

No; being on Sedex does not mean that you have met any ethical standards or are in compliance with any code, but it does mean that you have committed to continuous improvement. It is up to each customer to assess their suppliers’ information on Sedex and to decide whether it meets their own standards.

I already have an assessment system for my suppliers; why should I join Sedex?

Sedex provides an electronic system for collecting and analysing comparable information on ethical and responsible business practices. It can be accessed by any supplier or site, anywhere in the world, providing they are able to use the internet. Sedex allows you to access and analyse ethical assessments, action plans and corrective actions, and to track progress over time.

My team works with suppliers to develop action plans; how will this work with Sedex?

Suppliers enter the agreed actions into Sedex and can then use the system to report on their actions and progress.

If I join Sedex, does that mean I don’t need an ethical trading programme?

No; Sedex provides a framework for gathering and sharing information but everyone in the chain needs to verify the accuracy of the information submitted and act on that information in order to drive improvement.

As Sedex enables sites to share the same data with many customers, there is a strong incentive for suppliers to join. This helps reduce the duplication of information, allowing both parties to concentrate on making improvements, rather than on numerous self-assessments and audits.

What happens if I don’t join Sedex?

If you have been requested to join Sedex by one of your customers it is likely that they see Sedex as an important part of their responsible sourcing practices. It is becoming increasingly common that companies see Sedex membership as a condition of supply. You should see membership as something that can benefit not only your customers but also your own company. If you are unsure of how it can benefit you please contact us directly or click here for more information.


Sedex Membership

How do I join Sedex?

Sedex offers 3 different types of membership. Before joining Sedex, you first need to determine which membership type is best for your organisation.

Once you know which membership type you wish to apply for you will need to complete the online registration form.

For further instructions on how to join Sedex please see ‘How do I join?‘ or download Part 1 of our Supplier Guidance Pack.

What membership type is best for my company?

Sedex has 3 membership types – A, AB and B. These reflect the different types of businesses in global supply chains.

  • A membership is typically suitable for retailers, NGOs, charities, and government organisations who wish to view and run reports on ethical trade information in their supply chain.
  • AB membership membership is typically suitable for agents, importers, farms/growers, manufacturers etc. with 5 or more suppliers who wish to share their ethical data with customers and also to view and run reports on ethical trade information in their own supply chain.
  • B Membership type is typically suitable for farms / growers, manufacturers, service centres etc. with fewer than 5 suppliers who only wish to enter and share ethical information on their own site of employment.

For more information, visit Membership options where we have put together a few questions to help you determine which membership type is best for you.

Who pays for our membership?

We try and keep Sedex membership fees to a minimum. One of the goals of Sedex is to prevent the duplication of information, helping companies to save time and money. We therefore encourage companies to pay for their own account.

How can I become more involved with Sedex?

As a membership organisation we thrive on input from our members. We have a Board of Directors made up of A, AB and B Members and a number of working groups covering areas such as the Environment, Product Development and Auditing. If you would like to get involved in any of these groups please email [email protected] or call +44 (0)20 7902 2320.


The Sedex system

I’m worried about the security of my information; how will my data be kept confidential?

Security of all data is of paramount importance to Sedex. The servers are hosted in award winning facilities with ISO9001 and ISO27001 accreditation. System access is controlled through usernames and passwords and all data is passed through a Secure Socket Layer (SSL). In addition, we conduct an annual intrusion test of the system to ensure security is maximised.

Within the system, data can only be shared between companies who are in a supply chain relationship. As the owner of a site you must explicitly grant access to member companies within your supply chain. More information can be found on our Security page.

Will my competitors be able to see my supply chain?

No; members can only see information about other companies if they have been granted access.

I’m an agent and I can’t be sure on any particular day which of my sites supplies which of my customers; how will Sedex deal with this?

Sedex enables you to specify which of your suppliers supplies to each of your customers. You need to agree with your customer the best way of handling your supply chain, to ensure that they have access to the most accurate information possible.

Lots of my direct suppliers are agents; how will Sedex deal with this?

Agents need to register as B members on Sedex and record their trading relationships. The agent is then responsible for making sure that their suppliers register on Sedex and grant you access to their data.

Having trouble logging in? Are you using Internet Explorer 11 as your internet browser?

There are known compatibility issues with Internet Explorer 11 and various websites, including the Sedex system. We recommend that you do not upgrade to  this version or use an alternative browser to access the Sedex system. The issues are typically causing menus not to display properly and long delays in between loading full pages. Sedex supported system browsers include Internet Explorer 7.0 and 8.0, Mozilla Firefox 3.0 to 6.0, Google Chrome and Safari 4.0 to 18.


Ethical audits

If I join do I need to have an ethical audit?

No; having an ethical audit is not a requirement of membership. You may wish to have an ethical audit based on your own internal policy or by the request of one of your customers.

Do I need to have my site independently audited before I can join Sedex?

No; Sedex stores self-assessment data as well as ethical audit reports. You are not required to have an audit in order to join Sedex. However, when you do have an audit carried out, you can make the audit report available on Sedex and use the system to communicate your corrective action plan and progress to your customers.

What audit protocol does Sedex use?

Sedex does not prescribe a specific type of audit. Sedex provides a place to store any and all ethical audit reports, with a summary of non-compliances held in a common format. However, Sedex has created the Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audit (SMETA) – a common audit methodology and report format compiled of best practice in ethical trade audit technique. Go to the SMETA page for more information.

Who pays for audits?

Sedex does not specify who pays for audits. It is up to each site, supplier and retailer to agree who should bear the cost of auditing. However, Sedex seeks to minimise the cost of auditing by making a single audit report available to a number of different customers.

Does Sedex have a list of approved auditors?

No. Sedex does not restrict who can carry out an audit, although some companies may recommend certain auditors to their suppliers. The identity of the auditor is included on each audit summary and members can then decide whether or not the audit is acceptable to them.

Can sites amend third party audit reports which have been uploaded to Sedex?

No; audit reports that are directly uploaded to Sedex by a third party auditor cannot subsequently be altered by the sites.