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Article

New academic research finds many audits are unreliable and underlines need for mandatory due diligence & worker participation

"Why apparel brands’ efforts to police their supply chains aren’t working", 30 April 2020

For years, apparel brands have promised to police their supply chains to root out unsafe conditions and worker abuse. But new research from Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations found a variety of problems in their efforts. For example, much of the information given to the auditors who inspect factories was inaccurate, particularly in China and India...

[T]he average unreliability of all 40,458 audits examined was about 45%...

As a result, there’s been not enough effort improving conditions...

A clearer picture begins with getting more reliable information. A recent analysis in Vox shows how bad data on the fashion industry’s environmental impacts distorts efforts to change them. Getting reliable data for labor compliance means that buyers and brands must invest in intelligence from workers, unions and bona fide due diligence...

Our research shows why a mandatory system of due diligence [...] may be necessary...

But better reporting by itself won’t solve the problem. We believe workers and unions need to play a bigger role. A separate Cornell analysis found that compliance with safety and labor laws increases significantly when workers are able to bargain with managers over working conditions...