• Deanna Clark-Esposito

The Important Role of A Social Compliance Officer



U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has incorporated Social Compliance as part of its overall trade compliance program. This change is part of an agency-wide effort to combat the growing problem of forced labor. Under 19 USC §1484, the importer of record is responsible for using reasonable care to enter, classify and determine the value of imported merchandise and to provide any information necessary to enable CBP to properly assess duties and determine if other legal requirements have been met. Since 1993, CBP reasonable care standard had previously only required that importers have: Merchandise Description & Tariff Classification, Valuation, Country of Origin/Marking/Quota and Intellectual Property Rights.


The term “Social Compliance” refers to how a business treats its employees, the environment, and their general perspective on social responsibility. A company’s responsibility for the ethical treatment of both its workers and the environment cannot be outsourced, and it is necessary to account for all aspects of a supply chain. In order to ensure a business operates in the most ethical and responsible manner, as well as to ensure its adherence to international standards regarding human rights, it is important to remain vigilant of all national and international laws and regulations, as well as professional standards, accepted business practices, and international standards.


Following the changes to the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 (TFTEA), CBP added to its reasonable care standard for importers the addition that due diligence be exercised governing forced labor. Thus, importers are now tasked with creating and implementing a social compliance program in accordance with CBP guidelines.

A Social Compliance Officer is responsible for ensuring a company is conducting business in full compliance with said laws, regulations, practices, and standards.


This role serves both an ethical and pragmatic function. A Social Compliance Officer works to enable the smooth and efficient operation of a company by minimizing risk, avoiding lawsuits, and maintaining a good public reputation as a socially responsible and aware organization.


In addition to ensuring compliance with external rules imposed upon the organization, a Social Compliance Officer is also tasked with ensuring the company’s compliance with internal systems of control enacted to ensure its compliance to externally imposed rules, as well as engaging with outside entities to create strategic partnerships.


The specific duties and responsibilities of a Social Compliance Officer include:


· Contribute to the development, implementation, and revision of policies, strategies, guidelines, formats/manuals, tools and procedures in order to ensure the lawful and ethical operation of the company


· Contribute to the review and update of the company’s policies and strategies to mainstream environmental and social sustainability into day-to-day operations


· Develop and implement an effective legal compliance program


· Create sound internal controls and monitor adherence to them


· Keep abreast of changing laws, regulations, rules, and practices


· Identify and prioritize needs of the company (e.g. create action plan)


· Keep abreast of internal standards and business goals


· Proactively audit processes, practices, and documents to identify weaknesses


· Educate and train employees on regulations and industry practices


· Ensure all employees understand any and all practices and regulations, as well as address any concerns


· Evaluate business activities (e.g. supplier contracts) to assess compliance risk


· Provide expert leadership for the development and implementation of best practices and innovative approaches related to ethical business practices, sustainability, and risk management


· Create plan to manage a crisis or compliance violation


· Contribute to knowledge sharing and harmonization efforts through conferences, external knowledge management publications and others; coordinate strategic partnerships and networks with other entities such as UN Agencies and Multi-Stakeholder Groups (MSGs)


· Collaborate with external auditors and Human Resources (HR) when necessary


· Oversee the preparation of management responses to audit, independent evaluation, compliance and review mechanism, etc.


If you have any questions about Social Compliance, or the role of a Social Compliance Officer, feel free to message us through the Contact form on the Home page.

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