Some brands claim to audit their suppliers for labour violations on a regular basis. Are they telling the truth?

The majority of today’s brands and retailers participate in one monitoring program or another. Indeed, a global industry of commercial ‘social auditing’ firms has emerged – but not all fulfill a benefit for workers.

Consider what factors make a valuable monitoring program. The most effective ones create empowering spaces where workers can influence outcomes without fear of reprisal.

Yet many audits reveal a lack of worker inclusion, superficial interest from retailers and brands, and deceit from factory management. Rights-based violations (e.g. freedom of association) are often overlooked in these cases. At CCC we ask: What’s the point?

On its own, monitoring does little to address violations of workers’ rights. But it can strengthen other initiatives, including:

  • Education and training
  • Partnership with local organisations
  • Grievance and complaint mechanisms
  • A proactive approach to freedom of association
  • Effective procedures for remediation and transparency
  • Addressing existing business or purchasing practices

Above all, garment workers must feel safe and empowered to self-advocate in the audit process. Only then will we see ethical change in the garment production industry.

For an in-depth look of how current audit practices are failing workers, see our report “Fig Leaf for Fashion: How social auditing protects brands and fails workers”, either the summary briefing or the full report.