Delays in audits, restrictions on the movement of people, and health concerns during on-site audits - COVID-19 has also caused significant problems for Sedex SMETA social audits. That's too bad, because especially in times of crisis, monitoring the human rights situation and protecting employees is more important than ever. Now Sedex has launched a new audit product that responds to the challenges and adds value even in a post-COVID world: the Sedex Virtual Assessment.

The Sedex Virtual Assessment provides the core functionality of a SMETA social audit. However, some elements have been removed in the virtual audit option to allow for digital delivery. The tool was developed in consultation with several members, Affiliate Audit Companies (AACs), and key stakeholders. As an Affiliate Audit Company, DQS was instrumental in its development.

Social audits provide insight into highly sensitive contexts. Only the use in social audits will show at which points the Sedex Virtual Assessment needs to be readjusted. Sedex is aware of this and has therefore released the product as part of a so-called soft launch approach. The findings will be published regularly in a soft launch review process and the product will be adjusted accordingly.

Who may conduct a Sedex Virtual Assessment?

The Sedex Virtual Assessment can be used for initial audits, periodic audits and partial or full follow-up audits. However, the virtual audit is not suitable for all sites. Once an audit is requested, the approved audit firm verifies that the site meets the established criteria and is eligible for the virtual audit. Eligibility criteria include the following key requirements:

  • All areas of the site must be virtually accessible (exception: If it is not possible to use cell phones in any area of the site due to combustion issues or sensitive commercial reasons)
  • Internet connectivity exists in all areas of the site
  • The site is sufficiently busy to allow the auditor to get a full picture of the site and the diversity of its workforce on the day of the audit

There must also be an opportunity for group interviews with employees. Individual interviews are not included in the virtual audit for the protection of individual employees. In case group interviews are not possible (or if the client wants to get a deeper insight into the work reality) the Direct Worker Reporting Tool must be implemented. The main function of this method is to establish a direct communication channel between site and workers.

The Audit Process

The Sedex virtual assessment always takes place announced due to the need for pre-audits and more comprehensive planning. The preparation phase for the audit is longer because the use of communications and information technology must be tested prior to the audit and some document review occurs prior to the audit. This offers the advantage that the auditors can get a picture of the site before the actual audit.

How DQS can help you

DQS CFS is one of the approved audit companies, known as Affiliate Audit Companies (AACs). As a member of the Sedex Virtual Assessment Working Group, we have actively contributed to the product and have in-depth knowledge and experience in its implementation. DQS has qualified auditors worldwide who are happy to support your projects.

Constanze Illner

Constanze Illner (she/her) is Research and Communications Officer in the area of sustainability and food safety. In this position, she keeps an eye on all important developments in this context and informs our clientele in a monthly newsletter. She also moderates the annual Sustainability Heroes conference.