When a Picture Says a Thousand Words: Bangladesh
Managing Risk: What Do You Do With What You Know?
As these types of stories continue to make headlines, end-buyers increasingly want to know their products are created in a production environment that is not only aware of ethical manufacturing standards but is also actively engaged in process improvements that emphasize implementation of best practice corrective actions. They truly want the “accountability” in social accountability—and they want the audit data to prove it.
But some belittle physical audits as nothing more than “picture day,” where the factory figuratively gets dressed in it’s Sunday best to impress the auditors and then proceeds with business as usual once the regulators leave. This is an easy out for those who haven’t experienced the depth of information revealed in an audit or who haven’t received the guidance audits provide in how to potentially improve their business. Audits invariably uncover a road map to process-improvements that can—and do—make a significant difference to how a business operates. The question is: What do you with the information you glean?
Tazreen Fashions, the site of the Bangladeshi fire, for example, is said to have received an Orange rating (think of the “orange” traffic light you ran on your way to work) from Wal-Mart in its most recent audit, according to this article in the South China Morning Post. And this was after the manufacturer received a Yellow rating in August last year. Clearly, the warning signs were there—but they were ignored or fell through the cracks in a rush to meet the perceived consumer demands in the U.S. and Europe.
Nothing was done to manage the risks, and many are paying the price. Workers are dead, their families permanently altered from the needless loss. The retailers and brands whose goods were produced in the factory are struggling to control an explosive situation during peak holiday season. And the importer that placed the order with Tazreen Fashions without authorization now finds its relationship terminated with the retailer—permanently and publicly.