SIZA strives to ensure continuous improvement within agri-businesses, allowing for economic growth, social responsibility, and environmental stewardship throughout the supply chain. This goal is achieved by ensuring reliability, ethicality, and consistency amongst the SIZA approved third-party audit firms. This continued drive is to ensure credible data is provided to global buyers and stakeholders, confirming that requirements are being met, and showcasing compliance at various levels within the supply chain. It is important to also maintain this drive toward continuous improvement among audit firms, allowing for a calibrated approach and methodology that benefits everyone involved, including the business, auditor, and the buyer.
All SIZA-accepted audit firms are internationally recognised certification bodies that are subject to the monitoring and evaluation principles as specified by SIZA in a Service Level Agreement, the Social (Ethical) and Environmental Audit Processes and Methodologies (APMs), as well as the SIZA Audit Monitoring and Evaluation Policy. Compliance with these requirements is monitored to ensure audit firms and auditors remain in line with the requirements of the SIZA third-party oversight plan.
It is the responsibility of all SIZA approved auditors, audit reviewers, and relevant audit staff to adhere to the SIZA code of conduct, methodology, policies, and competency requirements as set out by SIZA. The process of determining competency starts with the individual selection of prospective auditors who are evaluated based on their knowledge, experience, qualifications, and professional conduct. All SIZA social (ethical) and environmental auditors need to attend the relevant annual SIZA auditor training sessions and achieve the desired pass mark for the required auditor assessment before qualifying to become recognised as an auditor. Each social auditor will also need to adhere to the minimum requirements of the Association of Professional Social Compliance Auditors (APSCA) as well as the SIZA competency requirements before acceptance. Auditors are also monitored on their level of experience and competency, after which they are assigned roles which range from shadow auditor to trainee and associate auditor before they are recognised as a lead auditor. To further strengthen their competency, auditors continue to be monitored during annual training and by successfully completing the applicable SIZA auditor assessment, as well as APSCA and other related examinations.
To ensure audit reports are thorough and in line with the relevant due diligence requirements, SIZA also conducts a monthly review of third-party audit reports from each audit firm and supplies feedback to each company respectively. The purpose of this process is to ensure audit firms address the correct issues internally with their auditors and calibrate reporting measures. This does not, however, replace the internal review that third-party audit firms have in place. Reports are reviewed for compliance with the Social (Ethical) and Environmental APMs, due diligence in assessing the applicable SIZA Standard, as well as general report writing and overall quality of reports. Audit reports are visible to global markets which furthermore contributes to reviews being done on the content and the competency of the audit firm and the auditor. Auditors need to ensure that the content of the audit report is a true reflection of the practices within the businesses being audited.
In the event that a business does not agree with a non-compliance or the risk rating allocated to a particular non-compliance, the business can formally lodge an audit dispute. SIZA follows the formal Audit Dispute Procedure to allow formal feedback from the audit firm on both the suitability of the finding and its description. The process will furthermore allow for anonymous review and independent opinions from the SIZA Audit Expert Group on the legal particulars of the non-compliance. The independent majority outcome then determines whether any review of the non-compliance can or must be made based on further factual information and assessments.
To maintain auditor competency even further, it is possible for businesses or stakeholders to lodge a complaint regarding an auditor or audit team using the official SIZA Complaint Procedure when there is any deviation from the SIZA audit process, methodology or standards. These deviations can include any of the following:
- Auditor integrity & competency
- Evidence of bribery/corruption
- Conflict of interest
- Any form of discrimination
- Assessment integrity and results
- False audit reporting
- Fraudulent behaviour or processes
- Workplace behaviour and arrogance against auditees
- Disloyal attitude or negative statements towards the SIZA programme
- Any misconduct according to the SIZA APM requirements.
SIZA will facilitate a process of review with the applicable audit firm to ensure the audit team undergoes the necessary training, evaluation, or further development which creates the opportunity to further ensure every auditor is competent in their interpretations, applications, and manner of auditing.
As SIZA believes the audit process should remain transparent for all those involved, businesses have the opportunity to send feedback to SIZA following a SIZA audit. The feedback will allow SIZA to better understand how the supplier experienced the overall auditing process. The aim is to improve SIZA processes and to ensure that audits are effective as well as to ensure auditors’ competency is calibrated effectively.
The audit process should always reflect the internal principles of the audit firm and represent SIZA’s standards and brand reputation. Based on the feedback and outcome of the reviews, SIZA will converse constructively with each audit firm, allowing for improvement for all parties and ensuring that SIZA Social (Ethical) and Environmental audits generate more credibility. It is expected of all parties involved in the audit process to contribute to the efficacy of the SIZA methodology and procedures to ensure consistency and quality throughout the audit process.