Responsible sourcing platform Sedex has launched what it claims is an industry-first virtual assessment tool designed to conduct remote appraisals of sites and workplaces. 

The new Virtual Assessment tool enables Sedex members to continue assessing their sites and suppliers and maintain supply chain visibility while restrictions relating to Covid-19 remain in place around the world.

It uses video technology to allow auditors to assess a site remotely. Following a thorough planning stage, auditors conduct a virtual site tour via video alongside examination of a site's documentation and management systems. 

It is aligned with Sedex's SMETA (Members Ethical Trade Audit) methodology, designed to provide as much insight into performance and working conditions as possible where in-person audits are not possible.  

This is particularly important in the current context of the Covid-19 pandemic, when restrictions mean that access to sites for in-person audits is limited. Virtual Assessment also provides flexibility when on-site audits are an option but not ideal, such as sites in extremely remote locations – the tool has already been used in Guatemala and Papua New Guinea, amongst others.  

"In these uncertain times, it is more critical than ever for companies to maintain transparency and protect workers throughout the global supply chain. Site assessment is an integral part of this – at Sedex we knew we should empower our members to continue this activity while respecting necessary safety restrictions around the world," says Magali Martowicz, director of responsible sourcing.

Sedex and selected members have been testing Virtual Assessment since June 2020. Early signs are said to be encouraging, with an increasing number of virtual assessments scheduled and completed month-on-month. Benefits also include cost savings by reducing travel costs to transport auditors to remote areas or countries.  

Virtual Assessments accounted for almost 2% of all audits uploaded to the Sedex platform in September 2020.  

Uptake has been strongest in India, where more than 20% of the Virtual Assessments have been conducted to date. Types of sites assessed include manufacturing and rural agriculture.