General

What is a vBRM module?

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.

How can I get access to the vBRM module?

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.

Could you tell me more about the process? Who will conduct the verification? How long does it take? Is it primarily a desktop review?

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.

How much will the verification by the Verifier Body typically cost?

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.

Is it possible to verify just a section of the module?

No, the full BRM assessment needs to be verified.

Where can I find the list of approved Verifier Bodies?

You can find the list here.

Will BRM verification be free for SAC members?

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.

Once the brand provides the answers on the platform in the self-assessment and after the verification is completed, is it possible for the brand to change / adjust the answer (e.g. if they find they made a mistake, or did not understand the question, etc.)?

A: 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.

Can the verification start only after the self-assessment is completed?

Yes, that’s correct.

Once the verification is finalized, is the Accurate / Inaccurate selection for each question made public? Is the verification statement for each question made public?

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.

What is expected in terms of documentation for each question when the verifier comes?

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.

For brands who already participated in the verification last year, should all the data automatically input from last year be verified again?

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

Is it up to the brand/retailer which level (Reasonable or Limited) of verification to choose? 

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.

Is there a difference in cost of conducting the verification based on which level is chosen? 

Please contact one of the approved Verifier Bodies to get an understanding of cost.

Are these levels in line with Higg FEM verification?

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.

Is there a requirement for Higg BRM verification to be held onsite or offsite similar to Higg FEM verification?

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.

How will verification work for a holding company with multiple brands?

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.

If a brand has been verified last year, do they have to be verified again on the questions where there are no changes/updates?

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.

When we choose Reasonable level of verification, do we then have to stick with it year after year? 

It is not necessary to stick to it year after year.

Do you have to publicly share if you choose Reasonable or Limited level of verification?

The performance communications toolkit will outline this requirement. This is expected to be released at the end of 2021.

Verification runs from May until December for 2021. As a brand can we chose when to start the verification, or are there any guidelines on timing?

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.

Will SAC accept / will VBs be offering virtual verification or are onsite visits required?

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.”

Will the “How this will be verified” section of the BRM How To Higg Guide provide documentation requirements for each BRM question?

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.

Who can I reach out to to answer my questions on Higg BRM verification? 

Please submit your questions on Higg BRM verification to our support desk through sacbrm@sumerra.com or howtohigg.org/request.

FAQs Generally From VBs and Verifiers

How can a verifier or VB become eligible to conduct verifications to BRM?

Please review the BRM VB and Verifier Requirements document for more details.

As verifiers, do we need to upload / share the evidence we used for the verification? Is this evidence public?

A: 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.

Can we as a Verifier Body receive a demo to have an idea of how verification works on the higg.org platform?

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.

Will verification data be saved automatically?

A: All information with be saved live on higg.org. Please make sure your internet connection is strong. We recommend toggling between sections to test and ensure your data is saved.

Are there limitations if the VB is providing supplier assessment or audits or verifications on behalf of brands?

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 sacbrm@sumerra.com.

Are there limitations if the advisory or training service is delivered by one office / team and the verification by a different one with different staff?

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”.

 

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