Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audit (SMETA) is one of the most widely used ethical audit formats in the world.
An estimated 230,000 SMETAs have been conducted to date with 79,000 of those on the Sedex Advance system.
“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 developed and maintained by the Sedex Stakeholder Forum (the SSF). The latest version of SMETA was launched in November 2014. SMETA consists of four core documents:
- SMETA Best Practice Guidance (pdf): A best practice guidance on conducting ethical trade audits
- SMETA Measurement Criteria (pdf): A set of instructions on the items to be checked by auditors
- SMETA Report (download): An audit report format
- SMETA CAPR (download): A corrective action plan format
See our infographic – SMETA in Numbers – for a quick overview of SMETA.
What is SMETA?
SMETA is an audit procedure which is a compilation of good practice in ethical audit technique. It is not a code of conduct, a new methodology, or a certification process.
SMETA is designed to reduce duplication of effort in ethical trade auditing, benefiting retailers, consumer brands and their suppliers. Using SMETA, a supplier can have one audit conducted and share it with multiple customers, rather than having a different audit conducted for each customer. The SMETA documents are designed to be used by experienced auditors in line with current established practices.
SMETA methodology uses the ETI code and local law as the measurement tool. It includes four modules:
- Health and safety
- Labour standards
- Environment (optional)
- Business ethics (optional)
As well as a common audit report format, SMETA documents also include guidance around:
- Training and experience requirements for auditors
- Suggested pre-audit communication
- Suggested time plan for the audit
- Suggested number of worker interviews for the size of company
- Detailed audit execution
Who can use SMETA?
While SMETA was developed for Sedex members, companies who are not members of Sedex are also encouraged to use it. By making SMETA publicly available we hope to promote greater transparency of audit methodology and share knowledge about auditors’ qualifications and the practices that underpin SMETA reports.
What support is available for SMETA users?
Sedex working groups have produced a series of documents which help you know what to expect from a SMETA audit, what systems and actions you can take to prepare for your audit, and how to address any non-compliances. Some of these are openly available, others are available only to Sedex members.
Openly available SMETA support documents:
Pre-audit information pack (download). This information pack is designed to:
- help auditors prepare to conduct a SMETA audit
- help suppliers prepare to have a SMETA conducted on their site
- help other users of SMETA learn more about the audit process
The guide is in stand-alone sections so that you can easily select the parts which are most useful to you.
- Guide to Completing a SMETA Report and a
- Guide to Completing a SMETA Corrective Action Plan Report
These have been put together using fictitious information to demonstrate to SMETA users how to complete a SMETA report. They give more explanation of the type of information required. Please note the example uses typical information from China; it may vary for other countries.
- 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.
Sedex-member only SMETA support documents:
These documents are available to Sedex members only, via the Sedex Knowledge Hub. To access the Knowledge Hub, log in to Sedex Advance and click on ‘Help’ button in the top right-hand of the page.
- SMETA documents in English/Mandarin and English/Spanish
- Guide to social systems auditor competencies: To assist members when selecting auditors based on defined competencies
- Non–compliance guidance: A common approach to examples of non-compliances, grading of severity, and suggested timeframes for correction
- Corrective action guidance: Suggested possible corrective actions following a SMETA audit
- Draft guidance for an assessment process of environment and business ethics: A procedure for looking at the environmental and business ethics performance of a site as part of a SMETA
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:
Can I get accredited to conduct a SMETA?
Sedex does not accredit or certify auditors.
Any auditor can use SMETA and it is not necessary to be a member of Sedex to conduct a SMETA audit. If you would like to upload a SMETA audit to Sedex Advance please see the Auditors page for information on the different types of auditor membership.
Other ethical auditing advice
Types of audits:
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.
Finding an audit company
The Local Resources Network (LRN) is a database where you can search for audit companies in your area.
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.
- The GSCP Reference Tools set the international reference on best practices for sustainable supply chain management. They are free and open source, providing a common interpretation of fair labour and environmental requirements and their implementation.