1. Verification Introduction
BRM verification ensures brand and retailer data captured on the Higg platform can be trusted by external stakeholders. The process is generally similar to other sustainability report assurance/verification processes and is based on standard assurance frameworks.
2. Verification Protocol
The Higg BRM Verification Protocol governs the verification process by outlining requirements from Verifier Bodies, brands and retailers while conducting a verification. The Verification Protocol contains details about verification criteria, scope, levels of verification, and overall verification process.
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3. Verification QA Manual
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Find the fees to apply and become an approved BRM Verifier Body.
Click below link to apply as a VB: https://www.sumerra.com/programs/sac/brm/
vBRM stands for verified BRM module. This is required for the verifier to overwrite their verified assessment responses in response to the self-assessment completed by the brand.
If you are an SAC member brand/retailer, a vBRM module needs to be self-allocated each cadence.
If you are a non SAC member brand/retailer, you will need to purchase a vBRM module during each cadence. vBRM module cost will be made available shortly.
If you are a service provider organisation and already are approved, you will receive a vBRM module for internal demo and practice purposes.
Companies wishing to go for a verification will hire an approved VB. Upon confirming a VB, the VB will conduct a Higg BRM verification on the higg.org platform. The results will be provided to the company in form of a completed vBRM module. The workflow of a Higg BRM verification is similar to a FEM verification. However, Higg BRM verification process is aligned with ESG reporting assurance frameworks. The time taken to conduct verifications varies based on the company size. Mode of verification will primarily be desktop based including calls and in person visits if local travel restrictions allow. Please thoroughly review the BRM Verification page for detailed information.
SAC or its ecosystem partners do not play a role in determining the cost, these are largely determined by market practices. SAC however has provided a guideline for hours required to complete a BRM verification as per the company size (measured in terms of revenue). Hours may range from 30 to 225 depending on the company size. Please refer to the BRM Verification Protocol and Getting Started Guide for more information.
vBRM module will be available as part of the membership to SAC members. Each brand will need to pay the verification fees directly to the approved third party Verifier Body (VB) hired by them.
After a verification is finalised by the brand, they cannot change their responses during the same cadence. Brands should work on improvements needed and can update their module responses in the next cadence. However, after the verification is completed by the verifier (module status: VRC) and if the brand has question level disagreements with the verifiers, they can discuss them and edit the verification by requesting editing (module status: VRE).
Find more guidance here.
Public performance communication of verified module results is governed through the Performance Communication Toolkit (release due end of 2021). Verified BRM module will be accessible to brands’ connections and they can view the accurate/inaccurate selections and verifier comments by viewing the brands’ verified BRM module.
Please review the Getting Started Guide, BRM Verification Protocol and the “How this will be verified” section of the How To Higg Guide. Please work with the VB to ensure all necessary documentation is available and shared with the VB as per request to optimise time required to conduct the verification.
Since this is the first year the program has been available, SAC will be reviewing feedback and trends from this year to inform updates in next year’s verification process.
Levels of Verification
Reasonable is the more in depth/detailed verification and Limited is on a more high level. It is up to the brands to decide which level of verification to go for. Factors based on which the choice of level of verification would depend on are: level of assurance for their GRI aligned sustainability report, level of details expected from their stakeholders (investors, civil society organisations) etc.
There are many similarities between Higg BRM and Higg FEM verification, for example platform workflow, administrative processes on the verification side. Key difference is levels of verification, which are based on assurance framework standards such as ISAE3000 and AA1000.
During the BRM verification pilot, we observed that a BRM verification is predominantly focussed on documentation review, interview with management and staff, review of internal practices, publicly disclosed information. Hence there is no specific requirement for Higg BRM verification to be conducted either onsite or offsite.
We understand that a holding company with multiple brands may have similar management practices. This is a discussion a brand needs to have with their verifier body. SAC is keen to learn more about it and use this feedback during the next iterations of the verification protocols.
Based on the membership requirements outlined in 2021, each member brand needs to conduct BRM verification each year in order to achieve foundational level. Should members have difficulties meeting this requirement they can reach out to their membership engagement manager for further discussion.
The performance communications toolkit will outline this requirement. This is expected to be released at the end of 2021.
The protocol contains general guidance on timelines for each step and how long it is expected to take. Sufficient time should be allowed to make sure the verification can be completed by the posting deadline at end of year.
Onsite visits are not a mandatory requirement as per the protocol, “3.6 VENUE 3.6.1 Generally, verifications are conducted ‘off-site’ through desktop review of shared materials, phone or online interviews and communications, and review of public information. 3.6.2 On-site meetings or site visits, though not required, may be conducted at the discretion of the VB and with agreement of the Brand/Retailer.”
The ‘How to Higg Guidance’ does include guidance on what documentation is generally acceptable/needed for verification. It is not possible to consider every different scenario that may occur so it is not possible to say it provides 100% of document requirements.
FAQs Generally From VBs and Verifiers
Evidence which helps support the verifier’s evaluation should be uploaded in the verified BRM module. Uploads will be accessible to brands’ connections once the module is finalised (module status: VRF), hence document uploads should be as per the non-disclosure agreement signed between VB and brand.
Only approved VBs receive a demo vBRM module. However, you can access our step by step guidance pages to get an understanding of how verification works on the higg.org platform.
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Requirements for Verifier Body and Verifiers mentions the requirements to maintain Impartiality, which states that “If a Verifier engages in consulting work (including but not limited to advisory and training services) at an organization, they are prohibited from conducting verifications at that organization for a period of 2 years”.
Because the supplier assessment is an evaluation of individual suppliers and the BRM is a verification of brand/retailer organization data, limitations may not apply. However the VB needs to ensure there are necessary mechanisms in place to ensure there is impartiality while conducting a BRM verification. In case you have a specific situation you’d like to discuss, please reach out to the Verification Program Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As written, the rule applies to individual ‘Verifier’ and not the Verifier Body. Therefore it would not apply to advisory or training service delivered by someone in a different office or on a different team. That said, it is required that Verifier Bodies have in place policies and procedures for Impartiality. We recommend alignment with ISO/IEC 17021-1:2015 Section 5.2 Management of impartiality. Specifically you may reference section 5.2.7, which states, “Where a client has received management systems consultancy from a body that has a relationship with a certification body, this is a significant threat to impartiality. A recognized mitigation of this threat is that the certification body shall not certify the management system for a minimum of two years following the end of the consultancy”.