3. Strengthening Assessments & Social Audits

Social audits are the primary tool used by brands to assess their own facilities and those of their suppliers for compliance with their corporate policies and codes, and to detect compliance violations and worker abuse. Most auditors, however, are ill-equipped to detect this abuse and to make the improvements in the recruitment, selection and hiring process necessary to address it effectively.

Human trafficking and recruiter-induced forced labor are complex issues. They are hidden, characterized by deception, and typically the result of complex pressures, abuses and exploitation levied not by a single employer but by a number of abusive actors at each stage of the recruitment, hiring and employment process, and at every level in the supply chain, up to and including the brand itself.

To account for this, brands need new assessment and compliance strategies. They need to audit not only themselves and their first-tier suppliers, but also the labor recruiters and other intermediaries that provide them with and/or manage workers on their behalf. They also need new and effective tools to assess and identify these new forms of abuse. At the same time, auditors also need to be fully trained. New tools, audit procedures and policies warrant new and better training on how to identify and address forced labor.

Incorporating these new strategies can help brands effectively reduce the risks they face and establish mechanisms to protect migrant workers. Auditors are at the frontline of global supply chains and CSR; they are better placed than many to prevent and address abuse. It is essential that they are well-equipped to do so.

The tools and links provided in the sidebar will help you get started. They provide guidance on improving social audits, with a focus on applying a management systems approach to risk identification and control. They also set out a framework for interviewing the labor recruiters and other intermediaries that are contracted by brand suppliers.