FAQs about Ethical Audits during COVID-19

ethical audits

Understandably there has been some uncertainty surrounding ethical audits during the COVID-19 pandemic. For instance, do you still need an ethical audit? Can audits be delayed? How will they work with social distancing? Can ethical audits be conducted remotely?

Our customers are asking these questions and many more. Below are answers to the most popular questions:

Are you still carrying out audits?
Yes! Our audits had been on hold due to travel and social distancing restrictions. They have now resumed – subject to conditions (see below)

Have you changed your processes in any way?
Yes, we have carried out a COVID-19 risk assessment. Our auditors will also complete a health questionnaire. This will be sent to customers prior to their visit to show they have not been in contact with anyone with symptoms etc. Customers will need to submit a copy of their own COVID-19 risk assessment together with information on any cases they have had within their workforce.

How will the audit take place with regard to social distancing and PPE?
Our auditors have access to PPE and sanitiser. They will comply with all hygiene and social distancing measures in place on a site.

What about site visitor policies and restrictions on site?
Verner Wheelock auditors will only visit one site per day and will aim to avoid a visit on the same day as another visit to your site.  They will comply with your visitor policies and will also wear PPE as advised by that company.

Can our SMETA ethical audit be announced?
Retailers usually require audits to be conducted during a three-week semi-announced window. However, since risk assessments and health questionnaires need completing prior to the site visit, some retailers are accepting announced audits during this time, for the safety of staff and auditors.  This also ensures that personnel required for the audit are on site on the day, as we realise that some office staff are working from home or on furlough. Please check with your customers for more information on this matter.

Can we have an extension on our audit deadline?
Sedex and the retailers are advising that audits go ahead. We had been informed they were allowing an extra 3 months, but please check with your customers first if you wish to postpone or delay your audit.

Can my SMETA Audit be carried out remotely?
Sedex are introducing a Sedex Virtual Assessment (SVA). This will be available from July 2020 onwards. It is unclear as yet whether all retailers will accept the SVA.  Also, sites will need to meet certain criteria to be allowed to have an SVA. Verner Wheelock is applying to Sedex to be one of the audit companies that can offer this service.

Is a Sedex Virtual Assessment (SVA) the same as a SMETA audit?
An SVA is not a full SMETA audit. Sites that undertake an SVA may also find that they need to have a SMETA audit at a later date.

Will staff need to be interviewed on site?
The auditor will need access to a private, well-ventilated room where staff can be interviewed individually or in small groups, following social distancing guidelines. If the weather permits, particularly on farms, the interviews may take place outdoors.  If you are having a virtual audit, interviews can be conducted remotely or may not always be included in the audit.

Can we close off Non-Conformances by desktop to reduce visits to site?
In some instances we might be able to follow-up remotely if sufficient evidence has been provided.

Is Verner Wheelock registered with APSCA (Association of Professional Social Compliance Auditors)?
Yes. Verner Wheelock is a member firm of APSCA. All our auditors are registered with APSCA and are currently completing the new CSCA exams. From 1st July 2020 SMETA audits can only be carried out by APSCA registered auditors from a member firm.

We hope the above provides clarity to help you to prepare for your next ethical audit. If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch on 01756 700802 or by emailing samantha.day@vwa.co.uk

Scroll to Top