SA8000® Approved by Dutch Sustainable Public Procurement

SA8000® is the first US based initiative to be integrated into the social criteria for public procurement
Oct 4, 2011 1:00 PM ET
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SA8000® Approved by Dutch Sustainable Public Procurement

SAI is pleased to announce that the SA8000® standard is part of the Dutch Government's social criteria program for sustainable public procurement. SAI is one of six approved initiatives. The  list includes two other ISEAL Alliance members - UTZ Certified and the Union for Ethical BioTrade- as well as Max Havelaar Foundation, Fair Flowers Fair Plants and the Fair Wear Foundation.

The social criteria for sustainable public procurement will focus on compliance with international labor and human rights standards in the international supply chain. SAI is the first U.S.-based organization to be recognized for this social criteria, and is also the first initiative whose standard is accepted across all product groups. This is especially relevant, as the SA8000® standard certifies decent workplaces across all industries, in any country. 

This policy offers a great opportunity for current SA8000® facilities. According to SAAS' certification statistics, there are an estimated 2,700 certified facilities in the world, employing over 1.5 million workers.  In addition, this is encouraging news for workplaces that are currently working to earn SA8000® certification. Certified facilities get easier access to an annual budget of 50 billion EUR spent by Dutch central and decentral government agencies.

It is very promising to see governments make ethical procurement a concrete program, moving beyond the development of positive policies to provide market incentives for ethical production. Multinational, national and regional governmental bodies are key users and supporters of voluntary social standards systems. With growing recognition for the importance of sustainability, many government agencies, both at national and multilateral level, leverage their purchasing power for  sustainability and public policy objectives.

In the Netherlands, the Dutch government set targets to phase in the use of  environmental conditions in public procurement decisions. The 2010 target was to include environmental conditions in 100% of the public procurement transactions of the central government, 75% for municipalities and 50% for provinces. In 2011, social conditions were added, applying differently to different stages of the procurement process. Social conditions in public procurement decisions is not yet mandatory but are supported along the process. Social conditions apply to European tenders above specified  thresholds (EUR 133,000 for services and EUR 5,150,000 for goods) and not to national tenders. Social tender conditions are not used to select parties, but are discussed upon signing of the contracts. In the future it is likely that including social conditions in tender procedures will become mandatory.

Contracting: the process becomes more stringent in the contract phase - the  vendor must accept the social conditions. There are two types- general and additional conditions, which  be managed under one of three 'regimes.'

The general conditions must be accepted and are based on the core conventions of the ILO:  

  • Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining;
  • No forced labor;
  • No child labor;
  • No discrimination 
The additional criteria are set for certain sectors: coffee, tea, textile and flowers. These product groups are selected due to the existence of multi-stakeholder initiatives in these sectors.

The additional conditions set are: 

  • Living wage;

  • Fair or minimum prices and pre financing;

  • Working hours;

  • Health and safety 

Upon signing the contract, the supplier chooses a 'regime.' The chosen regime details how the supplier proposes to manage the social conditions. There are three regimes:       Regime 1: The supplier is a member of, or certified to, one of the program's specified  initiatives - a supplier can simply show evidence of membership or in this case a copy of a valid SA8000® certificate to show that it meets social conditions. Regime 2: The supplier does not see any risks related to violations of the set social conditions - a supplier can simply state there are no risks. If the government agency or other stakeholders sees no reason to think otherwise, a supplier meets the conditions like this. If the government agency does not agree, regime 3 applies. Regime 3: Social risks are present or might be present -a supplier has to accept the set conditions, needs to do a risk analysis, has to show how to mitigate risks and needs to report on progress.   Regime 1 is the fastest, most credible and cost-effective way for the supplier and government agency to verify its commitment. By simply showing a certificate, a supplier is automatically verified.   SAI17341