"Picture Day" - Why Factory Audits Are Not Enough
We see examples of this nearly every week in the news. For example, Apple just got creamed in The NY Times over the working conditions in the factories making their iPads. This is truly tragic and it saddens me, but it is not going to put a dent in the demand for the iPad 3.
Walmart is also regularly in the news on this topic. According to their 2009 Global Sustainability Report, Walmart had 14,264 factory audits in 8,246 factories in 2007 and 11,502 factory audits in over 7,000 factories in 2008. I think these are pretty impressive numbers and yet in spite of an obvious commitment, their reputation for factory worker rights is less than stellar.
For those of you who may not be familiar with what a social responsibility audit is measuring, here is a link to the UN Global Compact's ten principles in the areas of human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption. These principals are primarily what is being looked at in social responsibility audits.
The vast majority of big companies manufacturing in Asia have products that are a lot more expensive than promotional products and they have huge financial commitments to corporate social responsibility programs (CSR). These companies are good at compliance. They also have the ability to dramatically influence what happens in their supply chain unlike most promotional products companies. And yet, they still have issues. Audits are an important component of your compliance program and you should be commended for doing them if they are proactive and part of your standard business practices rather than only at the request of a customer. Just know that if it is all you are doing, you only scratching the surface of the issue.
Brent Stone is executive director - operations for Quality Certification Alliance (QCA), the promotional products industry's only independent, not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping companies provide safe products. A Six Sigma Black Belt, Stone has more than 25 years of in-depth supply chain management experience with extensive expertise in process design, development, improvement and management. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.qcalliance.org for more information.