We understand that cost is an important factor when considering SIZA audits. While audit costs vary depending on your workforce size, the size and location of the farm/packing facility, and the type of audit you choose, take note of the following factors which influence audit cost:
- Location of the business/farm/packing facility
Travel costs can contribute significantly when an auditor needs to travel from a different province to the farm site or when the farm has multiple sites that are located very far from each other. Contact all of the recognised audit firms before deciding which firm will be conducting the audit. Many audit firms might have an auditor available at a specific time in your area, which will aid in lowering travelling costs. Also, speak to your neighbours in your area and consider to arrange your audits in the same week or two so that you can share travel and accommodation costs.
- Number of employees
The number of employees play a large factor when a social (ethical) audit is being conducted. As per the SIZA audit process and methodology, which is in line with global market requirements, a certain sample on all employment levels must be drawn for the interviews, along with the documentations review. The higher the business’ number of workers, the higher the risk and the more interviews need to be conducted, resulting in more time spent by the auditor onsite. The auditor must then also interview a balanced sample of all types of workers, including seasonal and permanent labour, as well as other types such as casual workers or labour service providers.
- Size of business/sites
If the business is a larger entity with multiple sites, or processing/packing facilities, it will take the auditor longer to review and assess the implementation of practices. This will add time to the audit, resulting in more costs for the auditor spending their time at the business as opposed to a single farming unit, without accommodation or other production facilities. It is therefore important to ensure that your business is registered under the correct level on the MySIZA Platform.
- The complexity of the business management systems/files/availability of documents
If a business has a well-organised and easy-to-follow trail of documents, procedures and manners of implementation, auditors can triangulate information a lot quicker, resulting in less time spent on a document review which can shorten the audit time spent onsite.
- Auditor competency requirements
Auditor requirements are consistently monitored and require auditors to complete various assessments and examinations annually to maintain accreditation. This is accompanied by regulatory bodies such as APSCA,for social auditors, which requires membership fees, along with annual registration and training fees. These factors impact audits as the auditors must maintain their professional registrations in order to produce valid audits.
- Difference between food-safety vs social vs environmental audits
Be mindful of the difference between a social audit versus a food safety audit versus an environmental audit. Whilst a food safety audit/standard focuses on the product-specific or general food safety systems, a SIZA social audit is a management-system orientated audit that considers all social and ethical risks within the business, related to the workforce. Social audits will likely always be a more extensive and longer audit. For environmental, SIZA has already created an option for producers to combine this audit with their GLOBALG.A.P. IFA food safety audit to allow for a more cost and time-effective approach. Therefore, these two audits can be done on the same day, whilst a social audit will be done by a different type of auditor and will be separate from the food-safety and environmental audit.
- How often you should audit
SIZA’s audit frequency is dependent on the overall risk-outcome of a producer’s audit. This means that depending on the number of findings and the risk-rating of each finding during a third-party audit, the producer will either achieve a Platinum (3-years), Gold or Silver (2-years) or Bronze (1 year) audit outcome. In essence, the better one does during their SIZA audit, the longer audit validity period they will achieve, resulting in a more cost-effective audit programme for the business as they do not have to audit every year. This risk-rating will only apply if all corrective actions are completed in the recommended timeframes following the audit, and only then will the Audit Completion Letter be valid for the period in accordance with the risk-rating. If the corrective actions are not completed, the audit is not valid and completed in full. For more information on the SIZA Audit Frequency Matrix, view it here: SIZA Audit Frequency Matrix. Also note that the period of validity is ultimately supported by the relevant buyers, and if a particular buyer requires annual audits, SIZA cannot overrule that buyer’s internal requirements for audit periods.
It is true that an audit can feel like a burden and very easily overload one’s expectations and preparations for an audit. The important thing is to remember that an audit is measuring the every-day activities and therefore implementing practices in your business should become a lifestyle, and not something which is completed as a checklist the day before an auditor arrives onsite. Remember, without an audit a variety of markets will not accept your product, therefore let’s try to use the audit to our benefit. For information on the full SIZA Audit Process and Methodology, feel free to view it here: SIZA APM.