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
Myanmar: Gap’s voluntary report to US Govt. reveals rights issues in suppliers’ factories, cites measures taken to address them
U.S. clothing brand Gap submitted a voluntary report under the U.S. State Department's Reporting Requriements on Responsible Investment in Burma. Under the Requirements, any U.S. person who invests $500,000 or more in Myanmar, or invests in its oil and...
The Walk Free Foundation has launched a practical guide on concrete guidelines for companies, businesses and governments who want to eliminate the risk of forced labour and slavery in their supply chains. The guide seeks to fill the current gap of...
Morocco: Fairfood calls for living wage at European supermarkets' tomato suppliers; Ahold, Tesco & Sainsbury's respond
Fairfood's new report finds tomato workers supplying European supermarkets receive compensation below the living wage. We invited Ahold, Sainsbury's and Tesco to respond. The companies' responses are provided below....
A worker at the Olam InterntionaL sugar mill in Kolhapur (Maharashtra) India was killed by falling sugar bags in a workplace accident on August 8 which also severely injured two other workers. According to the union representing plant workers, the...
Author: Samsung Electronics
... As part of our pledge against child labor, Samsung routinely conducts inspections to monitor our suppliers to ensure they follow our commitment. For the supplier in question, we have conducted a thorough audit in March 2013 which was followed by a...
Responsible purchasing is as important as responsible manufacturing in social compliance programmes, says John Ruggie
Author: John G. Ruggie, Former UN Special Representative for Business & Human Rights
“From Audit to Innovation” Keynote Address at the Annual Conference of the Business Social Compliance Initiative, 13 Nov 2014...
- Related in-depth areas: Latest news on UNGPs
In November 2014, the NGO China Labor Watch (CLW) published a report "Investigations on Toy Suppliers in China: Workers are Still Suffering" which alleged that toy factories producing for brands such as Disney, Mattel, Hasbro, Crayola (part of Hallmar...
Survivors & relatives of victims of Pakistani factory fire file compensation claim against clothing retailer KiK in Germany