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Importers are facing more pressure from customers to ensure that their products are, at least to a certain extent, ethically produced.
However, actively monitoring working conditions in a country far away, costs millions of dollars. In other words, ensuring social compliance in China is out of reach for any company that’s not on the Fortune 500. That’s where BSCI and Sedex come in.
In this guide, we explain what importers must know about BSCI and Sedex audits, including rating systems, finding audited suppliers, and much more.
Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI) is a system meant to make supply chains more transparent and fair.
Importers and manufacturers anywhere in the world can become BSCI members, which requires them to comply with the 11 core BSCI principles:
Audits are carried out, by accredited companies such as Intertek, to verify that the supplier complies with these principles.
Each audit rates the supplier in one of the following categories:
However, BSCI is not a certification scheme. It’s based on gradual improvements over time.
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Supplier Ethical Data Exchange (Sedex) is a non-profit membership organization that sets social compliance standards for both manufacturers and buyers.
Similar to BSCI, Sedex is not auditing, certifying or otherwise “approving” suppliers. Instead, they develop a platform for social compliance standards, while accredited companies execute the on-site inspections.
A supplier or buyer can join Sedex by paying a yearly fee of around US$120.
The membership gives the supplier access to an online platform for managing their social compliance data, and the Sedex e-learning databank.
However, what really matters to Importers is whether a supplier has passed a SMETA audit.
The Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audit (SMETA) covers the following:
SMETA is also divided into a two-tier system:
4-Pillar SMETA also includes an environmental audit.
A supplier can either pass or fail a BSCI or SMETA audit. Assuming they have passed, it means that they have passed an on-site inspection carried out by an accredited company. The audit may have been ordered by another buyer, or the supplier itself.
Either way, this has the following implications for you:
a. A supplier that can pass social compliance audits are generally larger and better organized. This often goes hand in hand with decent quality systems and product compliance capability.
b. You can save yourself the cost of paying for a BSCI or SMETA report, as the supplier already passed the audit.
c. If you plan to sell to retailers in the US or Europe, you can expect them to require that you present audit reports proving that your suppliers in Asia passed a BSCI, SMETA or SA8000 audit.
These days, some retailers simply refuse to buy products from importers that cannot show evidence that their manufacturers – in China and elsewhere – meet some kind of social responsibility protocol. Hence, having a valid BSCI or SMETA audit report can be a matter of survival for many importers.
I am aware of cases in which importers have lost large accounts as their major customers suddenly decided to limit purchases to products manufactured by BSCI or SMETA audited factories.
Below follows two PDF sample reports:
The first thing you have to check is the supplier name, which should be stated on the first page of the audit report. Many trading companies, and even factories, send audit reports valid for completely unrelated companies, just to pass the screening process from prospective customers.
The report must for obvious reasons be valid for the same supplier you are planning to buy products from.
Second, you should always get the audit report verified.
You can contact BSCI and Sedex directly to verify if the report is authentic and still valid.
Also notice that BSCI and SMETA audit reports are only valid for a certain time, and may require that the supplier pass a follow-up audit at a later date.
Alibaba.com and Globalsources.com enable users to filter suppliers based on various factors, such as ISO 9001 and BSCI. All you need to do is to do a supplier search and then tick the BSCI box.
Now you will only suppliers that claim to have passed a BSCI audit report. Some suppliers also upload their BSCI or SMETA audit reports, for everyone to download.
But, as explained above, you must still verify if that is actually the case.
If you attend trade shows in Mainland China or Hong Kong, you will also notice that BSCI and Sedex suppliers advertise this by showing the logo of these organizations.
As mentioned, you can find BSCI and Sedex audited suppliers on Alibaba.com. Further, you can also limit the supplier search to only list such suppliers.
Just keep in mind that this listing is based on the supplier claim to be BSCI or SMETA audited. However, that may have been years ago, meaning that their audit reports are no longer valid. Further, it does not say anything about their rating.
Still, using this search function on Alibaba.com is a good way to narrow down your supplier selection when sourcing.
No, it’s only a small fraction of all manufacturers in China that have passed a BSCI or SMETA audit. Most likely because most cannot pass a BSCI or SMETA audit.
If you are looking specifically for social compliance audited suppliers, you need to limit your supplier selection to those that can provide valid audit reports.
Yes, you can order a SMETA or BSCI audit from Intertek, Asia Inspection and other accredited inspection companies. However, only the more sophisticated suppliers in China (and other developing Asian countries) can pass a social compliance audit report.
If you order an audit for a random supplier you’ve found online, you will probably end up wasting your money. BSCI and SMETA audits can be fairly expensive, often costing more than $800.
As such, you better have a good reason to pay for an unproven supplier to go through a BSCI or SMETA audit.
Personally, I think it’s easier to just go to a supplier that has already passed an audit.
Social compliance audits generally start from around $700 per factory audit.
There may be companies offering such audits for less, but keep in mind that a report is only of value if it’s issued by an accredited company.
The simple answer is that the vast majority of manufacturers cannot pass a BSCI or SMETA audit.
A supplier must actively implement and enforce the protocols developed by either BSCI or Sedex to be able to pass an audit.
However, the number of ‘BSCI and Sedex suppliers’ in China is growing, as more and more Importers (and their customers at home) demand that products are at least somewhat ethically produced.
Yes, at least when it comes to consumer products. However, based on my experience, BSCI and SMETA audits are more common among textiles and children’s products suppliers.
For example, I find it far less common to find a BSCI or SMETA audited electronics manufacturer.
Probably because the buyer’s in these industries care more about social compliance, compared to others.
Here are a few examples of companies offering BSCI audits in Mainland China:
Here are a few examples of companies offering SMETA audits in Mainland China:
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Co-founder of Asiaimportal (HK) Limited and based in Hong Kong. He has been quoted in and contributed to Bloomberg, SCMP, Alibaba Insights, Globalsources.com, China Chief Executive, Quartz Magazine and more.
32 Responses to “BSCI and Sedex Audits in China: What Importers Must Know”
I’m in search of Compostable Bag China factories that are BSCI compliant. Can you provide a list for me please. Thanks in advance.
China Rapid Management Consulting Co. Ltd, one of the earliest companies that engage in corporate social responsibility certification consulting service in China, focuses on the certification consulting services of enterprise management systems. In the past eight years since its foundation, and Excellent Service as its belief, and provided consulting services to over 300 companies on COC, ICTI, BSCI ,RAP, ETI,SMETA,SEDEX,C-TPAT, GSV,SA8000 certification. With its extensive experience, Eagle Keen has won a great reputation from its clients. Rapid is Manament Consuliting Co.,Ltd guide to success!
Where are you based? How much does it cost to conduct an audit in Shenzhen?
I am interested in this database for SMETA Audited Factories for PPE products.
Time is of the essence, I have a deadline which i must meet by Monday.
Please reach out to me asap if you can offer your assistance at all.
Thanks in advance,
Question: Do the trading house, which we buy the products from, need to be BSCI certified as well ? The factories which produce the products are BSCI but the we don´t by direct from the factory – it´s through the trading house ( invoice is settled in name of Trading house )
BSCI is not mandatory.
BSCI is only for produciton site or farm be certified, other company could not be certified by BSCI.
I have the database of already audited factories in China
Would you be willing to send the database to me: firstname.lastname@example.org . I’m currently looking for a reliable injection moulding plastics producer based in China.
Hi Eric, possible to send me this list as well? I am interested to wok with companys already have a BSIC Audit from China. to email@example.com
Hi I’m just wondering if there is a list of what abbreviations mean in this industry. For example what is ISO ?
ISO stands for “International Organization for Standardization”. There are various ISO standards and frameworks applicable to everything from electrical safety to internal quality management.
We are a certification organization and what shall we do if we want to do audit of BSCI or SEDEX ?
If your company is certified, the easiest way is to contact the same companies that issued the certifications. Other companies that can audit your firm are SGS, Intertek, Bureau Veritas. There are, of course, many others, but the above are one of the most recognizable and serious in the world. The cost differences are small.
Dear Fredrik, please confirm my information.
Yes, I agree
If your factory want to be audited according to BSCI，you must have a client who is amfori member approve your factory to do BSCI audit then the audit firm can do the audit for you; and your factory firstly become the Sedex B memer and then the audit firm can dot the SEDEX/SMETA audit for you.
We can provide factory consulting for those factories who want to pass SMETA/SEDEX, BSCI, RBA, ICTI,ISO and other clients’ audit.
Or I asked my question in a different way: If our suppliers have the Sedex (4P) Audit certification, do they attain BSCI’s level?
No, not unless they are also audited according to BSCIs protocol.
The bad findings are almost the same for both audits. For example, if a factory doesn’t pay the Social Insurance for all the workers, you will have this finding in both audits and the BSCI’s rating will be affected by these findings. It is said that BSCI is more strict. My opinion is that a factory with BSCI, can pass a SEDEX as well. Now, it all depends on the findings – can have a SEDEX 2P but the BSCI can be rated C for the same factory.
Thank you for your insights!
Thank you too for this topic and your help in this matter, it is rare and important your work here.
I have the same question as above one, what is the difference btw BSCI and Sedex? Which one is more high level? From your above answer, is Sedex more strict and more exigent than BSCI? If our suppliers have Sedex audit certification, can we say they have the BSCI’s level?
Thank you advance for your prompt feedback?
Between these 2 ( BSCI and SEDEX) what would you choose and why?
Thank you !
I can’t say we have any preference. Few suppliers are either members of BSCI or Sedex, so we consider both as good signs.
BSCI is more common in China, you will find more suppliers BSCI audited and if your client didn’t mention a certain rating – you will have a vast database of BSCI audited suppliers, most of them rated C.
General speaking, BSCI should be your first choice because it is accepted by more clients which include most of European buyer/brand and other US buyer/brand such as Wal-mart, Disney,AMAZON etc; however, if your clients come from UK, SMETA shoule be your first choice because of most UK retail require SMETA audit such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s, John Lewis, Morrios etc.
is there any database of already audited factories please?
I think there are databases on the BSCI and Sedex websites. It was a while ago since I wrote this article so I cannot remember where to find them.
There are datebase for BSCI audited factires or SMETA audited factories; however, only you are BSCI/Amfori or Sedex A memember, you can access those factories information.We can provide factory consulting for those factories who want to pass SMETA, BSCI,RBA, ICTI,ISO and other clients’ audit.
Can you tell me the different of BSCI vs Sedex ?
If a factory already pass BSCI audit, can we consider they need the standard of Sedex ?
BSCI and Sedex are different organizations. I would say that BSCI is sufficient.
BSCI has also a rating, based on the findings. SEDEX doesn’t have this option. For example, most of the BSCIs are rated C or D. A or B are rare. The most common issue of these audited factories is the Social Insurance.
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