By Synnove Vandal
Eighty-two percent of S&P 500 companies published a sustainability report in 2017, according to a press release by the Governance and Accountability Institute Inc.
Corporate social responsibility (CSR), a facet of corporate sustainability, is a self-regulating business model that encourages social accountability.
Once considered a corporate ethics strategy, CSR has become an essential corporate consideration.
Some countries require CSR by law. But for most importers, it’s a way to assess their supplier’s working conditions and protect their business from bad press and factory closures.
With the rise of CSR has come an onslaught of programs, certifications and for-profit providers of social compliance auditing and consulting services.
And many businesses that want to assess social compliance struggle to sift through the burgeoning options and varying standards.
How did social compliance become a corporate necessity?
Business ethics and social responsibility isn’t a new concept. More than 300 years ago, Adam Smith wrote about market interactions that serve society in The Wealth of Nations.
But the necessity of establishing a program for corporate success is a new development in CSR history.
Major retailers like Walmart and Target now require vendors to meet specific compliance standards to supply to their stores.
According to Josh Bersin, principal at Deloitte Consulting, social compliance programs have been gaining attention and resources to meet a growing demand from consumers and employees.
In an interview with Travel Weekly, Bersin said:
Corporate citizenship is now a CEO-level strategy and critical to a company’s bottom line.
But growth in the number and breadth of social compliance frameworks has led to “audit fatigue” among many manufacturers.
With so many social compliance frameworks to pick from, how do you know which type of evaluation you need to perform?
Can one social compliance framework beat all the others?
CSR is based on a company’s individual ethics—a unique, personal code. And because of this, it can be hard to create a universal code.
According to the author of this featured article, your code could match 90 percent of another organization’s but:
The [remaining] 10 percent difference is based on values… [and] universal agreement on values is simply not attainable.
Most everyone agrees a factory should be safe for the workers. But creating a safe factory workspace depends on the production processes involved in that specific factory.
It’s unlikely one set of standards could work in every circumstance.
Rather than trying to develop a universal standard applicable to all industries, the author of this article suggests the social compliance industry should:
Simply recognize multiple programs as being sufficient for meeting social compliance requirements and then let vendors choose from any among that list.
So instead of trying to find a one-size-fits-all CSR program, develop a social compliance plan based on your company values.
It’s as simple as identifying your values—maybe it’s safety, fairness or dignity—and promoting the standards to match.
Follow the link bellow for more information on CSR in the apparel industry.
Rationalizing Harmonization: The Apparel Industry Needs a Framework for Compliance – Avedis Seferian, Sourcing Journal
Synnove Vandal is a Client Manager at InTouch Manufacturing Services, a QC firm that performs product inspections and factory audits in Asia for clients in the US, EU and Australia.