AG Food Safety

November 7, 2023

Understanding SMETA Compliance for Farmers: A Comprehensive Guide

As a farmer, establishing ethical and responsible practices within your supply chain is a step you can take to show customers you are going above and beyond to protect the welfare of your workers and the environment and that your practices ensure sustainability of land and resources. One widely recognized audit methodology for evaluating these practices is SMETA (Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audit). In this overview, we will explore the aspects of SMETA compliance specifically tailored to farmers. We will discuss the importance of SMETA audits, the different types of audits available, and the benefits of working with certified Sedex partners. Let’s dive in!

Why SMETA Compliance Matters for Farmers

SMETA audits were designed to help businesses evaluate and improve working conditions within their supply chain. For farmers, this means ensuring fair labor practices, promoting worker health and safety, adhering to ethical standards, protecting the environment and natural resources. By achieving SMETA compliance, farmers can demonstrate their commitment to responsible business practices and build trust with customers and stakeholders.

The SMETA Audit Methodology

SMETA audits utilize the ETI Base Code, which is founded on the conventions of the International Labor Organization as well as relevant local laws. There are two types of SMETA audits: 2-pillar audits and 4-pillar audits.

2-Pillar Audits

A 2-pillar SMETA audit focuses on labor standards and health and safety. These audits provide an indication of a supplier’s adherence to ethical working standards. The modules included in a 2-pillar audit are:

  1. Labor Standards: This module assesses compliance with labor laws, such as working hours, wages, and freedom of association.
  2. Health and Safety: This module evaluates the workplace’s safety measures, emergency preparedness, and occupational health practices.
  3. 2-Pillar Audits also contain the additional elements of Management Systems (including Land Rights), Universal Rights covering United Nations Guiding Principles, Responsible Recruitment Practices, Entitlement to Work, Subcontracting and Homeworking, and a shortened Environment Assessment.

4-Pillar Audits

In addition to the modules mentioned in the 2-pillar audit, the 4-pillar audit includes:

  1. Environmental Assessment (expanded version): This module examines the environmental impact of the farming practices, waste management, and conservation efforts.
  2. Business Ethics: This module assesses the supplier’s ethical practices, including anti-corruption measures and responsible sourcing.
  3. These additional pillars may not be required for all Sedex members and it is important that sites of employment and auditors are clear when these extra modules are required.

Types of SMETA Audits for Farmers

Farmers have several options when it comes to conducting SMETA audits. These options include self-assessment questionnaires, Sedex virtual assessments, third-party SMETA audits, and corrective action plans.

Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ)

The SAQ allows farmers to submit a self-assessment of their working conditions and ethical practices. This questionnaire helps identify areas of improvement and serves as a starting point for further action.

Sedex Virtual Assessment

The Sedex virtual assessment is a remote alternative to the standard SMETA audit. It utilizes video conferencing technology to connect an auditor with the farm site. Virtual assessments are particularly useful when physical access to the farm is limited, as demonstrated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Third-Party SMETA Audit

A third-party SMETA audit involves an in-person examination of the farm’s working conditions and ethical practices. Certified Sedex partners, like QIMA, can conduct these audits according to Sedex protocols. The audit report is then published in the Sedex system, ensuring transparency and efficient information sharing.

Corrective Action Plans

After conducting an in-person audit, if any non-compliances are identified, corrective action plans are provided to rectify the issues. These plans outline the steps that farmers need to take to address the non-compliances and improve their ethical practices.

Benefits of SMETA Compliance for Farmers

Achieving SMETA compliance offers several advantages for farmers:

  1. Greater Visibility: SMETA compliance provides farmers with a greater understanding of their supply chain and helps identify areas for improvement.
  2. Improved Supplier Relations: By adhering to ethical standards, farmers can build stronger relationships with suppliers and stakeholders, enhancing collaboration and trust.
  3. Independent Verification: SMETA audits provide independent verification of ethical compliance, which can boost credibility and reputation.
  4. Streamlined Certifications: SMETA compliance eliminates the need for multiple certifications, as it is internationally recognized and widely accepted.
  5. Strengthened Brand Standing: Complying with ethical standards and achieving SMETA compliance strengthens a farmer’s brand standing, especially among consumers who prioritize responsible sourcing.

How to Prepare for a SMETA Audit as a Farmer

To prepare for a SMETA audit, farmers should consider the following steps:

  1. Familiarize Yourself with SMETA Requirements: Understand the specific requirements and modules of a SMETA audit relevant to your farming practices.
  2. Assess Current Practices: Conduct an internal assessment of your farm’s working conditions, labor practices, health and safety measures, and environmental impact.
  3. Identify Areas for Improvement: Identify any areas that require improvement to meet ethical standards and SMETA compliance.
  4. Implement Corrective Actions: Develop and implement corrective action plans to address non-compliances and improve ethical practices.
  5. Maintain Documentation: Keep thorough documentation of policies, procedures, and records related to labor practices, health and safety, and environmental management.
  6. Engage with Certified Sedex Partners: Work with certified Sedex partners, such as QIMA, to conduct SMETA audits and ensure compliance.

Whether you need a little guidance or need us to provide full support through your SMETA or Code of Conduct audit, AGFSS can tailor a program to fit your needs. Email or call (209) 456-2822 .