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Social audits: Inexpensive and effective

by Mike Bellamy

Today I want to write this short blog to correct two false assumptions made by international buyers.

  1. Social Audits are not necessary
  2. Social Audits are expensive

I have the honor of being a board member of an Asian-based inspection agency that performs factory audits and product inspections. Early this summer the news was filled with a series of tragic events in Asia. 

First there was the factory collapse in Bangladesh, then 51 people died in a poultry factory fire in China (the doors were locked!), then there was another big factory fire in S. Asia. In the same month, a 14 year old child died from overwork in a Dongguan factory.  

Suddenly factory auditing, especially social auditing, is on the mind of just about every buyer and the inspection agency was flooded with business. It is a shame some buyers wait for bad things to happen before taking action to confirm their suppliers operate legitimate factories. I learned two things visiting with these buyers who just now are jumping on the Social Audit bandwagon.

  1. Many buyers had the impression that issues of workplace safety had gone away in this century. Sad to see, but the recent events of summer 2013 prove otherwise.
  2. Some buyers, especially small or new buyers, had the false impression that social audits were very expensive and time consuming. This is not accurate. A comprehensive social audit can be conducted in 2 days or less and the inspection agency I am associated with charges under 1000 USD (all in price).

Among other things, a social audit covers items like:

  • Child labor
  • Health & Safety
  • Disciplinary practices
  • Working hours and Environment
  • Compensation

Regardless of which agency you choose, or even if you decide to handle CSR (corporate social responsibility) in-house, I encourage all buyers to at least have some kind of plan in place to:

  • Clearly state your expectations for workplace safety with the factory
  • Monitor for compliance 

If you are unsure what steps to take, feel free to contact me and I will offer some free resources via the CSIC and/or introduce an appropriate consultant.

Mike Bellamy is an Advisory Board Member & Featured Blogger at the not-for-profit China Sourcing Information Center. He is also the author of "The Essential Reference Guide to China Sourcing"  and founder of PassageMaker Sourcing Solutions.

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