What is SMETA?

Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audit (SMETA) is one of the most widely used ethical audit formats in the world.

An estimated 280,000 SMETAs have been conducted to date with 93,000 of those on the Sedex Advance system. To view a full summary of Sedex’s SMETA in numbers please click here.

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.

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.

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)


SMETA is developed and maintained by the Sedex Stakeholder Forum (the SSF). The latest version of SMETA was launched in April 2017, with an implementation date of June 1st 2017. The companies in this working group included SGS, Amcor, Bureau Veritas, DNV, Givaudan, Kellogg, M&S, Pepsico, SAB Miller/ABInbev, and Walmart.

“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

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is Sedex making these changes?

We are currently working to improve the quality of the audit data on the Sedex platform. Making these changes will help us to track SMETA audits and ensure these are appropriately validated. All costs for audit uploads will be reinvested into Sedex products and services for our members.

What are the benefits of these improvements?

These changes will improve the quality of audit data and ensure audits carry more validity, therefore improving the effectiveness of audits. This will ultimately help reduce duplication and reduce the cost of audits for businesses in the long term.

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.

Sedex-member only SMETA support documents:

These documents are available to Sedex members only, via Sedex e-Learning. To access Sedex e-Learning, log in to Sedex Advance and click on the Sedex e-Learning icon. 

  • 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.

Further resources

  • The Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) has some useful resources on ethical and social auditing.

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