Why is the Audit Report so important?
The SIZA third-party audits aim to measure the risk for producers’ compliance against the SIZA Environmental & Ethical (Social) Standards and identify areas of non-compliance that require corrective actions. The SIZA programme is not a pass/fail exercise but rather a way to support producers in ensuring compliance and continuous improvement so that they can be protected against risk. The audit report plays a pivotal role in this process as it is an independent and credible account of the producers’ compliance with the SIZA Standards. It is also visible to all the relevant parties involved, including buyers. The audit report must convey a true-to-life message reflecting the practices of a producer on the day of the audit. The report must provide the buyer who reads this report with a broad and balanced view of how producers manage their labour and environmental practices on their farms.
The audit team follows a formal process before publishing the complete audit report. The auditor must submit the audit report via the MySIZA Platform for review within ten business days from the day of the audit. Reviews are done by one of the audit firm’s approved audit reviewers, who will ensure the report meets the programme’s criteria, level of quality and various APSCA-related requirements. To ensure that the audit reports are of the best quality, they are also regularly reviewed by SIZA specialists, who identify key points of improvement that are essential to writing a platinum-level report. These improvements are shared with the audit firms.
SIZA members use the SIZA Audit reports to access various markets worldwide, and the audit reports need to look the part. It is essential to ensure that the report is professional, easy to read, and consistent throughout. The audit report also needs to set the scene for anyone who reads it and place them in the shoes of the auditor who conducted the audit. It is therefore essential that the reader is given details about the different areas that were inspected during the site tour in the Facility Description section (e.g., a description of sites and packhouses, the number of dams on the property, pumphouses, fertiliser and chemical stores, chemical filling points, waste management areas, conservation areas, wastewater treatment works, etc.). This should also include a brief description of the site’s location, facility, and management structure.
Any additional information that may be relevant to the audit needs to be noted in the General Remarks section as this will explain why the audit was conducted in a particular manner or why specific findings were raised or not. Additional information includes other certifications that the business has, whether audit arrangements had to be changed, whether certain areas of the property were inaccessible, whether the audit was done in combination with another standard, etc.
Findings & driving continuous improvement
The most important and highly contested section of the audit report is that of the audit findings, as they determine the overall risk rating and validity period tied to the audit outcome. Auditors should ensure that findings, corrective actions, and improvements are formulated clearly and should be self-explanatory. However, it is essential to remember that due to the broad reach of audit reports across the globe, various markets and industries require specific information and writing styles, which reflects in the non-compliances and their accompanying corrective actions required.
The following should be clear from the formulation of the finding and the corrective action:
- A detailed description of what was observed (fit and descriptive enough to justify the assigned risk rating).
- The problem identified, i.e., what code or legal requirement was violated.
- What should be implemented to rectify the non-compliance.
- What evidence should be submitted as proof of implementing the corrective action.
Recommendations are practices that are not SIZA Standard requirements but would benefit the site if implemented. They should also be formulated to make it clear to the SIZA member why it is beneficial for them to implement the recommendation. This can be done by explaining the significance of the recommendation in terms of protecting and caring for the environment and their neighbours both during the site visit and in the audit report.
Beyond audit findings
Finally, audits are not all doom and gloom. Many SIZA members have upped the game by implementing various practices that go above and beyond the standard requirements to better their environment and look after their neighbours. To date, a total of 297 best practices have been approved on the MySIZA platform. These include:
- aftercare centres for workers’ children
- conservation efforts to protect native and endangered fauna and flora
- annual sports days and charity events
- eco-energy practices such as solar panels on farm
- community engagement beyond the farm gates such as clinics, schools, transport services and many more.
Auditors and producers are encouraged to report on these good practices that are implemented in the audit reports to give a well-rounded account of the sites’ practices.