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Beyond Social Auditing

Ando International garment factory (Better Work Vietnam)_ILO Asia and Pacific_via_flickr

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.

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25 April 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...

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11 April 2017

KiK to introduce legally binding audits for its supplier factories

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...

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15 February 2017

OECD due diligence guidance for responsible supply chains in the garment & footwear sector

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24 January 2017

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...

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11 January 2017

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...

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27 November 2016

Ethical supply chain audits failing workers & the planet

Author: Genevieve LeBaron & Jane Lister, New Internationalist Blog

"Working for corporations, but failing workers and the planet" 28 November 2016...

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22 November 2016

Romania: Investigation exposes child labour & exploitative conditions in Kinder Egg (owned by Ferrero) supply chain

Author: Nick Parker, Sun (UK)

"eggsploitation exposed: Kinder Egg ‘slaves’ paid 22p-an-hour to work 13-hour shifts making toys hidden inside chocolate treats are helped by kids aged SIX", 21 Nov 2016...

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20 September 2016

China: IPE report raises concerns over pollution from a no. of suspected Disney suppliers; Disney responds

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12 September 2016

Bangladesh: Fire at a food & cigarette packaging factory leaves 31 dead, 50 injured

Fire at Tampaco Foils Limited, a factory north of Dhaka has killed at least 31 people and injured more than 50 with fears that the death toll could rise. The cause of the fire at the food and cigarette packaging factory was not immediately known, but...

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9 August 2016

India: Investigations highlight child labour, debt bondage & illegal operations in mica mines

Investigations highlighted incidences of child labour, debt-bondage and unsafe work conditions mica mines of various indian states. Many of these mines are reported to be operating without licenses. The mica sourced from some of these mines is...

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