​IRCA Social Systems Certification Scheme | CQI | IRCA Skip to main content

​IRCA Social Systems Certification Scheme

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The IRCA Social Systems Certification Scheme is for auditors auditing social management systems.

To be certificated to this scheme, you'll need to demonstrate your understanding of employment issues and the complexities of social systems auditing.


You are required to demonstrate the following knowledge and competencies (see the 'Sector understanding' and 'Work experience' sections of the application form):

  • Internationally accepted human rights norms, laws and regulations relating to labour and ethics issues
  • Relevant industry codes of practice, legal requirements, guidelines and standards relating to labour, ethics, health and safety, and environmental issues
  • Relevant international, national and local judicial systems and legislative frameworks
  • Relevant social responsibility and labour culture, trade unions, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other interested parties within the country or area of operation.

Auditors are required to have the ability to:

  • Plan, conduct and report a social systems audit

  • Communicate responsibly and clearly, both orally and in writing, with personnel at all levels of an organisation, including workers

  • Apply methods and techniques to gather and evaluate objective evidence (including payroll) and determine the conformance of a system designed to meet the audit criteria

  • Generate accurate, appropriate and responsible audit findings and conclusions

  • Uphold the principles of proper ethical conduct, fair presentation and due professional care.

The scheme is based on any of the following audit criteria:

  • The Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP) programme

  • The Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) Base Code performed in accordance with the SEDEX Members Ethical Trade Audit (SMETA) – Best Practice Guidance

  • The current versions of the RBA Validated Audit Process (VAP) Audit Criteria, using the Electronic Industry Code of Conduct RBA and performed in accordance with the RBA VAP Audit Operations Manual

  • Any suitable proprietary scheme that includes the following United Nations (UN) and International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions and core management principles.

Relevant UN Conventions:

  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted and proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United Nations in resolution 217A (iii) 1948

  • UN Convention on the Rights of the Child 1924/1959 and 1989

  • UN Convention on All Forms of Discrimination Against Women 1979

  • ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles Concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy 2000

Core ILO Conventions:

  • ILO Conventions 29 and 105 and Recommendation 35 (Forced and Bonded Labour)
  • ILO Convention 87 (Freedom of Association)
  • ILO Convention 98 (Rights to Organise and Collective Bargaining)
  • ILO Conventions 100 and 111 and Recommendations 90 and 111 (Equal Remuneration for Male and Female Workers for Equal Value; Discrimination in Employment and Occupation
  • ILO Convention 138 and Recommendation 146 (Minimum Age)
  • ILO Convention 135 and Recommendation 143 (Workers’ Representatives)
  • ILO Convention 155 and Recommendation 164 (Occupational Safety and Health)
  • ILO Convention 159 and Recommendation 168 (Vocation Rehabilitation and Employment of Disabled Persons)
  • ILO Convention 177 and Recommendation 184 (Home Working)
  • ILO Convention 170 (Safe Use of Chemicals)
  • ILO Convention 110 (includes reference to Provision of Housing for Migrant Workers).
  • (A total of 185 ILO Conventions are published and others may be relevant.)

Core management principles:

  • The requirement for management commitment, including establishing policies relating to social and labour issues, and appointing a member of management to be responsible for its implementation
  • The requirement for defined operational controls to address the audit criteria and relevant industry and legislative requirements
  • The requirement for effective organisation controls, definition of documentation, operational controls and crisis management
  • The requirement for monitoring and measurement, audits, corrective and preventative action, and management review
  • The requirement for improvement based on monitoring and review activities
  • The requirement for record-keeping to demonstrate that audit criteria are being met.

Note:   Audits performed to the standard SA8000, developed by Social Accountability International (SAI), may also be used to demonstrate audit experience.

Guidance on who this scheme is intended for

Certification to this scheme is generic and relevant to social systems audits performed within any industry, and therefore does not require any industry sector-specific competencies. There is a specialist scheme for social systems auditors operating within the electronics industry, which requires specific auditor training and sector competence as defined within the RBA Auditor Scheme. The purpose of both these Social System Auditor Schemes is to provide confidence that auditors who are certified are competent to audit for a variety of stakeholders, including:

  • Purchasing organisations
  • Supplier organisations
  • Regulatory authorities
  • NGOs
  • Contracted verification agencies.

Note: RBA Auditor training courses are accepted for registration onto this scheme

Auditing experience

The audit experience that you acquire after you have successfully completed your course will determine your auditor certification grade. The auditing experience requirements for each grade are detailed here: Grades

Download a list of acceptable alternative standards to SA8000 and the ETI Base Code.

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Applying for IRCA certification FAQs

Frequently asked questions about applying for IRCA certification – covering application requirements, training courses and how to record your audit experience.