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Understanding Sedex Virtual Assessments (SVA)

Verner Wheelock Sedex Virtual Assessment SVA

We are very pleased to announce that Verner Wheelock has been approved to undertake Sedex Virtual Assessments (SVA).

To achieve this status we had to demonstrate that we had the appropriate competencies, technology and infrastructure to enable the virtual assessments to take place.

Just in case you are unfamiliar with SVAs, we’ve put together a set of questions and answers below. These should give you a better idea of how they work and when they can be used.

What is a Sedex Virtual Assessment (SVA)?

Put simply, a Sedex Virtual Assessment checks the performance of a site based on the SMETA methodology. Instead of an ethical auditor visiting the site in person, the assessment takes place via video conferencing. Documentation is sent through electronically for review.

Does an SVA replace a SMETA audit?

No. SVAs do not replace a full SMETA audit. If you have an SVA you may still be required to have a full audit at a later date. However, they are a useful interim assessment if you are due a full audit, but it cannot take place. Reasons for this could include lockdown due to a pandemic, or a remote site location. A virtual assessment can also be used for a follow-up audit in some circumstances.

How does an SVA differ from a normal SMETA audit?

Firstly, it is all conducted virtually over the internet. A week before the audit an online pre-assessment meeting will take place to test technology and provide an overview of the format of the assessment. Secondly the assessment needs to be carried out on an ‘announced’ basis so that we can ensure that all the relevant technologies are working on the day. We will require a full site map and much of the documentation to be sent to us prior to the assessment. There will also be the facility to upload supporting documents e.g. wages and working hours information, to a shared portal during the assessment.

Will you still be undertaking worker interviews?

Yes. As with a regular audit, worker interviews will form an essential element of the assessment. These must take place as group interviews via video conferencing, but if this is not possible, we will use direct worker engagement. As always, workers’ identities will remain confidential.  A suitable room and a freestanding laptop with a camera and microphone will need to be provided.

Can any site have an SVA?

The short answer is ‘no.’ First of all, your buyers have to agree to it. Any site wishing to undergo an SVA will then be subject to Site Suitability Checks. You need to ensure that you have suitable reliable technology in place. This means a good, stable Wi-Fi network with secondary back-up. You will also need a fully charged smartphone or tablet connected to a reliable mobile network. The smartphone or tablet must have a powerful camera (8 megapixels or higher) capable of recording detail as it will be used to ‘walk’ the assessor around the site. A site must commit to providing all requested documentation including a detailed site map.

The history of the site and any open non-conformances will also need to be taken into consideration. Companies who have a previous history of coaching employees, attempted bribery or lack of transparency in their operations will not be permitted an SVA.

How does it work?

The structure of an SVA is similar to an ethical audit and is based on the SMETA methodology. Once the request for an assessment has been made and your site has met the suitability criteria, the scope of the assessment is agreed. You will then be allocated an assessment date.

On the day there is an opening meeting with the auditor and the audit team/management, as normal, and then a virtual tour of the site is live streamed via smartphone or tablet. Just like on a regular ethical audit, the auditor will be asking questions throughout and will be requesting supporting documentation. This can be uploaded to a secure shared portal. Worker interviews will take place via video conferencing. Once all the interviews have taken place and the auditor has all the information they require, the closing meeting can take place. The auditor will then write the report and it will be uploaded to the Sedex platform.

For more information on Sedex Virtual Assessments or SMETA ethical audits, please contact Samantha Day on 01756 700802 or samantha.day@vwa.co.uk