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AMSTERDAM – There are fresh calls for the results of garment factory audits to be publicly disclosed. Talking to Apparel Insider at a time when many think the current garment factory auditing process is no longer fit for purpose and simply a box ticking exercise, Ben Vanpeperstraete, lobby and advocacy coordinator with the Clean Clothes Campaign, called for greater audit transparency as a way of helping to “weed out” poor and inadequate audits.

For our latest print magazine, we spoke to several industry insiders on this pertinent issue and the consensus was that social audits are limited in scope and often miss crucial issues. “Our experience is that social audits are a relatively ineffective way of identifying human rights risks and violations in garment factories,” Vanpeperstraete told us, adding that audits are generally only effective at a very superficial level.

He added: “This is an industry and audits cost money. If you want to do a proper audit which includes more mandates, then there is a cost constraint. It will take more time, and auditors will need to go to the factory and talk to the workers. Most workers know the problems that exist within garment factories but to gather that information from them you need the space and time to talk to them off site in a neutral setting. If there are time or financial constraints, this will not happen.”

Vanpeperstraete bemoaned the checklist nature of many audits, which often target issues that are easily verifiable on a piece of paper, but which are not necessarily relevant. Moreover, he suggested many factory auditors can now “talk the language” of the auditor and are well versed in telling them precisely what they want and need to hear.

One solution, he suggests, lies in audit transparency – a suggestion which is certainly in-keeping with the current trend towards more openness in apparel supply chains, although the audit industry might not be so keen to have the results of its work open to public scrutiny.

Read of all of this feature including further interviews in the forthcoming magazine issue of Apparel Insider. To subscribe, click HERE

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