an introduction to the Benefits of the Ethical Standard and risk assessment programs

The adoption of the Standard leads to a number of benefits to sites. The Standard:

  • Is developed in line with bench marking requirements of the Consumer Goods Forum’s Sustainable Supply Chain Initiative which will drive wider acceptance through global recognition.
  • Provides a single protocol that governs an audit by third-party certification bodies, allowing a credible, independent assessment of a site’s ethical trade and responsible sourcing management system and associated procedures and practices.
  • Is operated by accredited certification bodies who each have to undergo a rigorous independent accreditation process to deliver audits against the Standard. Furthermore, each certification body is contracted to BRCGS and as such is also subject to further monitoring and controls imposed by our compliance and governance program.
  • Enables certificated companies to appear in the publicly available part of the BRCGS Directory, allowing recognition of their achievements and use of a logo for marketing purposes.
  • Is comprehensive in scope, covering areas of ethical trade and responsible sourcing.
  • Comprehensively addresses reputational risk through inclusion of supplier sites to ensure they are following good ethical trade and responsible sourcing practices.
  • Requires completion of corrective actions on non-conformities to the Standard and a root cause analysis to identify preventive controls before certification, thus reducing the need for customers to follow up audit reports.

The certification and grading process

The Standard is a process and a management system certification scheme. In this scheme, upon completion of a satisfactory audit, an auditor can award a site either a certificate with a grade A (subject to the satisfactory outcome of a second surveillance audit) or an non-certificated grade of B–D.

The auditor is employed by an independent third party (the certification body) which, in turn, would have been assessed and judged as competent by the BRCGS compliance team.

For a site to receive a valid certificate or grade on completion of a satisfactory audit, it must select a BRCGS-approved certification body. BRCGS lays down detailed requirements that a certification body must satisfy to gain approval and operates a comprehensive compliance program to ensure that high standards are maintained.

Guidance and training

BRCGS produces a range of guidance documents, training courses and a self-assessment tool designed to assist sites with the application of the Standard and an understanding of core skills such as internal audit and root cause analysis.

Further information about publications and BRCGS training courses can be found at
Effective date of Issue 1
Certification and/or grading against Issue 1 will commence from 1 August 2019.


highly-trained auditors worldwide

  • Audits carried out by a global network of trained, experienced, certification bodies, their performance is managed by BRCGS, unlike other schemes.
  • We set exceptionally high standards when it comes to the competence, qualifications and experience of our auditors.
  • First scheme to implement auditor category exams.
  • The audit standards and certification process is stringently maintained and consistent worldwide.


Support when you need it

  • Dedicated support available from the BRCGS Technical and Commercial teams.
  • Tell US for site to feedback auditor comments.
  • Established and transparent that ensures any concerns that you may have are investigated thoroughly and are vigorously followed up.




The aim of the risk assessment module is to provide a framework that assists sites to measure their performance against the five vital signs(hereafter known as ‘the Vitals’) of ethical trade and responsible sourcing (ETRS).

Although the risk assessment draws the Vitals from the Global Standard for Ethical Trade and Responsible Sourcing, the two products are distinctly separate and there is no further link between them.

The risk assessment of a site’s ETRS performance is designed simply to provide a ‘health check’ rather than a grade or certification.

By using a checklist that contains a weighted scoring mechanism, the risk assessment allows an auditor to identify areas where there is increased risk and where improvement and/or corrective action is needed.

It provides an independent review of a site’s performance against the critical elements of ETRS that they can share with their customers via the BRCGS Directory.

This means that the risk assessment can be done at the same time as a technical audit against another Standard and by the same auditor. Each auditor will have received training on the risk assessment and the usual BRCGS procedures that underpin the governance and compliance management of all Global Standards and associated modules. 

Benefits of the risk assessment program


Benefits to sites


  • The risk assessment can be delivered at the same time as another audit, and by the same auditor, which helps to reduce both the site’s audit burden and its costs.
  • It provides a way for sites to demonstrate to their customers and other stakeholders that they are committed to upholding the principles of ETRS.
  • Where relevant, the risk assessment can provide a site with an ‘early warning system’ of potential risks to their business and trigger preventive corrective action.


Benefits to buyers, brands and specifiers


  • The risk assessment provides an effective tool to support the responsible sourcing functions of buyers, brands and specifiers. Instead of insisting that all suppliers undergo a full ethical trade or social compliance audit, the risk assessment provides a snapshot of the ‘health’ of a supplier base.
  • Buyers, brands and specifiers can use the results from the risk assessment of their suppliers to support the need for further investigation. For example, if a significant risk is found in an important supplier at the risk assessment, then a full audit can be requested. Alternatively, the risk assessment may identify few risks, indicating that a full audit is unnecessary. This risk-based approach is a robust and effective way of avoiding a costly program of full audits while still providing oversight of the supplier base, thus ensuring that internal resources are deployed where they are needed most (e.g. with the suppliers that need more help to improve their performance).
  • The risk assessment can be delivered either as a stand-alone exercise or as a bolt-on to another audit, such as a part of a site’s annual food safety certification program. This approach is an efficient use of time and provides the buyer, brand or specifier with a regular opportunity to review the supplier’s ETRS issues alongside any related ones that have been raised in other audits (e.g. product safety).
  • The risk assessment is completed by a qualified and independent third party that has been trained and approved by BRCGS and its compliance management team, adding to its credibility and rigour as a tool that is fit to support a specifier’s due diligence program.