Beyond Social Auditing

Social audits are a frequent tool employed by companies to monitor the labour and human rights conditions in their supply chains. Following the adoption of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in 2011, social audits are increasingly also being used by companies to comply with their due diligence obligations. This trend is worrying given that numerous studies have found the practice to be ineffective in capturing human rights abuses in global supply chains, and ultimately in its current form to be failing workers. Incidents such as the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh and the Ali Enterprises fire in Pakistan have tragically drawn attention to the pitfalls of social auditing.

In this blog series on 'Beyond Social Auditing', expert authors discuss and reflect on solutions and fundamental reform options as well as what improved and accountable due diligence beyond social auditing should look like. 

For the latest news and resources on this issue, visit our 'Beyond Social Auditing' portal here.

This blog series and the portal are the result of a collaboration between BHRRC and Clean Clothes Campaign and was made possible thanks to funding from Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).



Photo credit: Wikipedia


Was the Brumadinho dam failure caused by a "normalisation of deviance"?

[I]nternal reviews are not enough. Mandatory human rights due diligence could be a powerful incentive for companies to engage seriously in human rights risk management.

 Claudia Müller-Hoff, European Center for Constitutional & Human Rights



Failing workers by design: The fatal assurances of the social auditing industry

In the end though, the problems of the system can only be solved if all stakeholders conduct root cause analyses of the purchasing practices that keep workers trapped in a vicious cycle of abuse.

 Christie Miedema, Clean Clothes Campaign



How can responsible recruitment of migrant workers move from rhetoric to reality?

Innovative new models should be piloted to help end forced labour of migrant workers.

 Andy Hall, Migrant Worker Rights Specialist



Audits are failing - brands should cut out waste so suppliers can pay their workers a living wage

Only by paying a proper price for their products can we expect suppliers to sustainably invest in their workers and the future of their business.

 Anne Manschot, Enact Sustainable Strategies



How to fight sexual harassment at work? Empower women workers through trade unions

Brands serious about [...] sustainable solutions beyond social audits should publicly report on the number of factories where workers are unionized, [...] and the business incentives they offer to factories that respect workers’ freedom of association.

 Aruna Kashyap, Human Rights Watch



Is 'worker voice' technology more than just kabuki theatre in the struggle for labour rights?

The scale, ubiquity, and systemic nature of rights abuse in supply chains calls for a more bold and innovative use of technology, to transform how workers and their representatives monitor and improve working conditions.

 Antoine Heuty, CEO of Ulula



Image by srohilla69 on Pixabay


New buzzword, same problem: how 'worker voice' initiatives are perpetuating the shortcomings of traditional social auditing

Ultimately, any initiative purporting to empower workers through worker voice is only as effective as its ability and willingness to disrupt power relations within global supply chains.  

Penelope Kyritsis, Worker-driven Social Responsibility Network, Prof. Dr. Genevieve LeBaron, University of Sheffield & Prof. Dr. Mark Anner, Pennsylvania State University



Ando International garment factory (Better Work Vietnam)_photo credit: ILO in Asia and the Pacific via Flickr_licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


Social audits in the textile industry: How to control the controllers?

As audits are increasingly adopted by companies to fulfil their human rights due diligence obligations, transparency and liability should be minimum conditions.

Carolijn Terwindt, European Center for Constitutional & Human Rights & Gisela Burckhardt, Femnet e.V.



Image by DCG_MAK on Pixabay


Social audit reform options: Towards auditor liability and multi-stakeholder oversight

Can the existing [social auditing] regime [...] be improved so that it delivers real protections against the exploitation of workers?

 Kebene Wodajo, Shanghai Jiao Tong University


We welcome submissions, including responses to any of the blogs on this page, from all stakeholders. If you would like to submit a blog for consideration in this series, please contact:

  • Saskia Wilks, EU/Western Europe Researcher, at wilks [at]
  • Johannes Blankenbach, EU/Western Europe Researcher & Representative, at blankenbach [at]