I have been contacted several times by trading companies or importers to “prepare the field” for a social audit. Generally, one of their potential customers conducts a social compliance audit to qualify factories, before issuing any order.
In this case, what to do?
There are basically two ways of proceeding:
- Some consultants (often former auditors from big-name auditing firms) can train the factory to get a better score. It often involves preparing fake documents, and training the staff to answer questions in a certain way. This is actually quite common in China.
- Another method is to start by doing a real audit, and then working transparently with the factory to address the problems noted in the report.
Needless to say, my favorite is the second option. Last week, a client was asking us for consulting services and I responded this way:
Here is our suggestion:
-1- The first step is to do an audit anyway, to see how many issues stand on the road to a satisfactory audit report. Without this first step, we are all in the dark regarding the actions to take.
-2- If the audit shows many issues, I suggest that you discuss with the factory whether they think they can improve on those issues (which will be clearly listed in the audit report). If the factory refuses to reduce the number of working hours or to buy protective equipment for the workers, for example, there is no need to send a consultant to help them.
-3- We do a follow-up audit after the factory has implemented corrective actions. Once again, most corrective actions are pretty obvious if the factory reads the first audit report.
Anybody has different experiences?