Beyond Social Auditing
Independent and diligent audits seem rare and require, at best, a sort of 'checklist compliance'.
Carolijn Terwindt, ECCHR & Gisela Burckhardt, FEMNET
The growing scale and complexity of global supply chains as well as an increased emphasis on human and labour rights has led large multi-national companies to carry out their own social audits, hire private auditors to monitor the conditions in their supply chains and/or require certificates from factory owners. With the adoption of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the subsequent positioning of due diligence as the global standard of practice for companies on human rights, social audits are increasingly being used by companies to comply with their due diligence obligations (for more information and guidance on human rights due diligence see this section).
This trend is worrying given that numerous reports 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, both of which were audited shortly before the tragedies happened, have tragically drawn attention to the pitfalls of social auditing in the textile sector.
Research has also drawn attention to the particular impact this has on vulnerable workers including women, children and migrant and refugee workers. Human Rights Watch for example found that audits in the textile industry fail to address gender discrimination and sexual harassment at the workplace. Our own work on Syrian refugees in the Turkish garment industry also highlights this issue. Workers in other sectors such as agriculture, food and electronics have similarly experienced the shortcomings of social audits, thus raising important questions as to whether the current practice of social auditing is fit for purpose.
However there are a number of reform options and (emerging) alternatives including approaches such as auditor liability, the Worker-driven Social Responsibility model, mandatory human rights due diligence and innovations to grievance mechanisms. This portal will feature various perspectives and research on the pitfalls of social auditing, gather and share examples of where audits have failed, as well as materials exploring alternatives to the current practice of social auditing, including by companies.
We welcome input and views from all stakeholders, both on options for fundamentally reforming social auditing and on alternative models which seek to go beyond the practice.
Related stories and components
Australia: Undercover investigation finds illegal foreign workers exploited on farm supplying to Coles & Woolworths
*Sourced by RepRisk due diligence on ESG and business conduct risks, www.reprisk.com.
Author: Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility
In a letter to the Leather Working Group, 62 institutional investors cite pervasive labor violations in a call for broadening scope to include labor as well as environmental due diligence at tanneries......
UK: Companies should identify barriers to equality in their workplace by conducting wider audits, says Fawcett Society
Author: Jemima Olchawski, Fawcett Society , on Huffington Post (UK)
"Equality in the Workplace Means Moving Beyond the Headlines", 22 Aug 2017...
Despite growing legitimacy, "ethical" audit programmes in supply chains remain largely ineffective, according to new research
Author: Genevieve LeBaron (University of Sheffield, UK), Jane Lister & Peter Auvergne (University of British Columbia, Canada)
"Governing Global Supply Chain Sustainability through the Ethical Audit Regime", 7 Apr 2017...
Author: Just style
After garments made for KiK were found at each of the factories involved in the apparel industry's biggest tragedies, the low-cost German chain is on a mission to raise the bar on working conditions within its supply chain. Recent developments include...
- Related companies: KiK
Brazil: Repórter Brasil releases report on poor working conditions & irregular use of pesticides on certified coffee farms, it includes companies’ comments
Repórter Brasil releases a report on poor working conditions and irregular use of pesticides on coffee farms certified by important labels of good practices such as UTZ, Rainforest Alliance, Imaflora, Certifica Minas and sustainable procurement progra...
Policy paper outlines mechanisms to improve quality & accountability in textile industry auditing processes
Author: Carolijn Terwindt & Miriam Saage-Maass, European Center for Constitutional & Human Rights; Friedrich Ebert Stiftung
„Liability of Social Auditors in the Textile Industry”, December 2016...
Author: Genevieve LeBaron & Jane Lister, New Internationalist Blog
"Working for corporations, but failing workers and the planet" 28 November 2016...