Some companies claim to check their suppliers regularly to make sure working conditions are OK. Are they telling the truth?

published 17-01-2013 13:50, last modified 22-05-2013 23:35
There are a lot of so-called monitoring programs around, but unless the workers are actively involved this can be just window-dressing.


Nowadays most major brands and retailers participate in some sort of monitoring program. Indeed, a global industry of commercial ‘social auditing’ firms has emerged. Unfortunately, social auditing has been characterised by deceit on the part of factory management, complacency on the part of retailers and brands, and only superficial interest in the experience of workers. Workers rarely can participate in the auditing process without fear of reprisal. Rights-based problems like violations of freedom of association are easily overlooked.

The Clean Clothes Campaign argues that credible efforts to implement codes of conduct cannot rely on social auditing alone, but must be combined with other tools to address violations of workers rights including: partnership with local organisations, grievance and complaint mechanisms, education and training, a pro-active approach to freedom of association, addressing existing business or purchasing practices, effective remediation and transparency.

Most of all, garment workers themselves must be part of any kind of real solution; only when a garment worker can feel safe and empowered to stand up for her/his rights, can the whole chain of garment production move on to being a sustainable industry.