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25th Anniversary Issue

In May, SAI marked 25 years of advancing human rights at work. Here we share some moments from our long-standing commitment to advancing socially responsible business and uplifting the rights of workers.


We would not have reached this milestone without our supporters and partners. Thank you! While our ultimate goal is to bring about change that makes SAI unnecessary, we look forward to continuing our work with you for as long as it’s needed.

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"Many of the themes that SAI chose to address since the beginning continue to be relevant today. There is no "one-solution" and we need to keep questioning, learning, evolving. This requires constant innovation, collaboration and also sheer persistence an unshaking belief in our mission and vision that workers, business and communities can and must thrive together.


Jane Hwang, President & CEO, 15 years at SAI

1997 | A multi-stakeholder board founds SAI and the SA8000 Standard, from the very start including living wage, management systems, worker-manager engagement, and multi-stakeholder dialogue.

The Global Reporting Initiative is launched, with SAI serving on the founding Stakeholder Council.


1998 | A year of firsts: SAI launches the Corporate Assessment Program, measuring and improving brands/buyers' supply chain management systems, including transparency, supplier development, monitoring, and purchasing practices. We also deliver our first auditor training, accredit the first SA8000 certification body, and welcome our first SA8000-certified facility.

"During those early years, the conversations and debates about the standards and the issues were new concepts, really transformative."


Rochelle Zaid, Senior Director of Standards, 22 years at SAI

1999 | SAI issues the first SA8000 Guidance document and convenes our first annual conference: "Managing Workplace Practices in a New Era of Social Responsibility."

2001 | SAI and Transparency International launch the Business Principles for Countering Bribery, the first framework for companies developing anti-bribery frameworks, which illustrated how to put these concepts into action.

SAI launches a worker training program in collaboration with the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers Federation (ITGLWF). The program eventually trains 300 worker study circle leaders to reach 3,000 workers in 9 countries across Asia, Africa and Latin America.

2000| SAI launches multiple supplier and worker training projects with $1.6 million in grants from the U.S. State Department and the Ford Foundation.

2002 | SAI, Fairtrade lnternational, Forest Stewardship Council, GoodWeave, Sustainable Agriculture Network/ Rainforest Alliance, and UTZ Certified found the ISEAL Alliance, creating a platform for dialogue between standard-setters.

"SA8000 was at the forefront and shaped the expectations of social compliance."


Lisa Bernstein, Senior Manager of SAAS, 21 years at SAI

2004 | SAI, Eileen Fisher, and Toys "R"Us launch a worker-manager training in China, leading to the first free and direct election of worker representatives in the country.

2006 | Factory of the Future program helps New York City apparel manufacturers link better management, productivity, and social compliance to better production. SA8000 certifications surpass 1,000.

2003 | SAI and partners support the Foreign Trade Association in launching the Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI) to enable data sharing, reduce duplication and increase collaboration.

2005 | SAI and the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers Federation launch a training curriculum for Chinese worker representatives

"I first worked with SAI in 2004-6, stayed connected, and rejoined recently in 2020. I've continued working with SAI over the years because we're recognized for quality and integrity in whatever work we do. We take on innovative projects and maximize our efforts to achieve the best impacts."


Louis Vanegas, Senior Director

2008 | SA8000 reaches over 1 million workers through certified facilities that commit to better health and safety, living wages, non-discrimination, freedom of association, respectful work environment, and responsible management of sub-suppliers and sub-contractors.

2007 | Project Cultivar provides training for factories and government inspectors to promote labor rights in agriculture in Central America, supported by USDOL.

A Harvard study shows that consumers will pay premiums for ethically labeled products, including from SA8000-certified factories. 


"The essence of SAI is in teaching and building better practices through industry."


John Brookes, Executive Director of SAAS,

founding Advisory Board member 1997; staff since 2016

2010 | Launch of Social Fingerprint® - a set of ratings, trainings and tools to measure and improve social performance and management systems. It is now used throughout our work and by many other codes and standards.


2012 | SAI and the Danish Institute for Human Rights launch Pillars in Practice (funded by US State Dept.) to build capacity among civil society organizations (CSOs) in Bangladesh, Nicaragua, and Zimbabwe to engage with and conduct further training on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs).

SAI and UN Women launch the Gender Equity Seal, providing a management system standard and guidance for improving gender equity in supply chains.

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2009 | Responsible and Accountable Garment Sector (RAGS) program implements social standards in the Indian Ready-Made Garment Sector, focusing on gender discrimination and home workers' issues.

2011 | SAI receives major grant from Disney for Social Fingerprint Rapid Results - our worker engagement and accelerated change management program later called TenSquared


2013 | SAI and partners found the Global Living Wage Coalition, beginning a movement towards credible measurement and practical implementation of living wages based on high-quality public research.


"I have had the chance to see the impact on workers in SA8000-certified factories. A young girl told me how she could finally hug her father because he was cleaner when he got home from work [due to health and safety improvements the company made to become certified]."


Badri Gulur, Director of Training and Capacity Building, 22 years at SAI

2014 | SA8000:2014 Standard released. This revision introduced Social Fingerprint management system maturity ratings and expanded the emphasis and concrete measurement of worker voice and stakeholder engagement in certified facilities.

2016 | SAI and Clif Bar develop a methodology for measuring living income, and pilot approaches to close gaps for cacao farmers.

SAI introduces new trainings, such as "Intro to Living Wage" and "Assessing Current Wages", to further industry expertise in topics related to social responsibility.

2015 | With support from HP and Rapid Results Institute, SAI kicks off TenSquared worker engagement program in China, with 100 day accelerated change projects for emergency preparedness and response.

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"I really enjoy being a part of TenSquared projects. I love being able to work directly with workers and see their success and sense of pride in achieving their goals."


Stephanie Wilson, Director of Innovation & Partnerships, 10 years at SAI

2018 | SAI supports the development of IRIS, a global standard and certification program to promote ethical recruitment and 

protection of migrant workers' rights.

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2017 | SAI supports ICCR with the launch of the Best Practice Guidance on Ethical Recruitment of Migrant Workers for companies, including strategies to drive change at the recruitment agency level.


2019 | iWrc, founded by Mike Maggio, expands Social Fingerprint training to waste recycling cooperative members in Brazil promoting better working conditions and economic empowerment for waste workers.

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2019 | Launch of Palma Futuro (a partnership with Partners of the Americas, funded by USDOL), helping palm oil companies in Colombia & Ecuador improve working conditions and social compliance systems throughout the supply chain.


"We're ambitious and innovative, and often ahead of the curve."


Christie Daly, Director of Corporate Programs, 11 years at SAI

2021 | FairCapacity (funded by GFEMS, EU, UK FCDO, and Norad) platform pilot connects apparel buyers, suppliers, and subcontractors in Bangladesh and India to improve working conditions through better production planning, purchasing practices, and transparency.

Launch of Mexico Awareness Raising project (a partnership with Partners of the Americas, funded by USDOL), increasing the understanding of workers, employers, and union leaders on how to utilize Mexico’s new labor systems to protect labor rights and effectively address labor disputes.

2020 | SAI launches remote trainings and audits after COVID lockdowns. SAI COVID relief fund benefits Vizhuthugal, a small Indian nonprofit delivering health screenings, trainings, and direct relief to over 2,000 vulnerable migrant workers and impacting thousands more.


Photo courtesy of Vizhuthugal

2022 | SAI launches two new USDOL-funded projects to address forced labor, child labor, and unacceptable working conditions in countries and industries around the world, leveraging our deep experience empowering workers' voices, training companies across the supply chain, convening stakeholders, and engaging communities. Learn about MY Voice, and Sustentar.

The list of people we would like to thank is long, but we would like to especially recognize our staff, Board of Directors, Advisory Board members, funders and partners, both past and present. Special thanks to our founding leaders Alice Tepper Marlin and Eileen Kohl Kaufman, and our Founder's Committee, people who pioneered not just SAI's work, but our whole field. And special thanks to all of the workers, managers, and stakeholders participating in our programs and working with us to shape the better world that everyone deserves.

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