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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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3 October 2017

Abuses in leather industry prompt investors’ call to add labour compliance to industry audits

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......

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13 November 2017

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. 

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27 November 2017

Commentary: Real-time, comprehensive approach is key to remedy for child labor & trafficking in global supply chains

Author: Nina Smith, GoodWeave International, Business and Human Rights Journal

"Remedy to Children Toiling in Global Supply Chains", 24 Nov 2017...

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28 November 2017

Vietnam: Study finds that miscarriage, extreme fatigue, fainting & dizziness are common among women workers in Samsung factories; co rejects claims

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28 February 2018

India: Report finds female migrant workers are subjected to conditions of modern slavery in factories supplying to garment brands; incl. co responses

"Labour without Liberty", a report by India Committee of the Netherlands, Clean Clothes Campaign and Garment Labour Union, looks into the living conditions in Bangalore garment factory hostels and the particular challenges migrant workers face. The...

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28 February 2018

Report by Human Rights Watch alleges labour rights abuses & child labour in gold & diamond supply chains of global jewellery brands; incl. co responses

The report “The Hidden Cost of Jewelry” by Human Rights Watch documents labour rights violations, child labour and poor working conditions caused by toxic chemicals in gold and diamond supply chains of global jewellery brands. The report scrutinizes...

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1 April 2018

Greenpeace Intl ends membership with Forest Stewardship Council; raises concern about system's inability to protect forests and human rights

Author: John C. Cannon, Mongabay

"Greenpeace International ends its Forest Stewardship Council Membership," 02 April 2018...

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17 April 2018

Global Witness statement on OECD Alignment Assessment of Industry Programmes with the OECD Minerals Guidance

Author: Global Witness

Global Witness is pleased to have contributed to the development of the pilot Alignment Assessment of Industry Programmes with the OECD Minerals Guidance. This assessed five prominent industry schemes against the OECD Due Diligence Guidance, which is...

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22 May 2018

UK: Labour exploitation widespread in Leicester garment factories supplying to high-street & online retailers, reports Financial Times

Author: Sarah O’Connor, Financial Times

"Dark factories: labour exploitation in Britain’s garment industry", 17 May 2018...

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19 June 2018

Women's rights NGO raises concerns about supply chain transparency of German fashion retailer Zalando; co. responds

On 23 May 2018, Dr. Gisela Burckhardt, representative of FEMNET e.V., an NGO focused on the economic, cultural and social rights of women in the garment industry in Asia, gave a speech at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of German online fashion retai...

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