Buyers use multiple formats to perform social compliance audits

Buyers use multiple formats to perform social compliance audits

Some apparel and footwear buyers are sceptical about social compliance certification schemes, according to research carried out by WRAP (Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production) - which has pledged to use the feedback to continue to improve its programmes.

The non-profit global compliance organisation has compiled a report, “Constructive Dialogues: Examining Social Compliance Programs through Conversations with Stakeholders”, based on the input of 50 people involved in social compliance, including apparel and footwear brands and retailers, NGOs, socially responsible investors, US government agencies, service providers and educational institutions.

Compiled as part of a strategic planning process designed to strengthen WRAP’s programmes and develop effective social compliance solutions, the report reveals two main issues for the organisation to address: a lack of trust in its audit reports, and the need to improve the communication of what it does.

Of the people questioned about their thoughts on social compliance, 27 did not use the WRAP programme, against 11 who did. So it is perhaps not surprising that feedback about WRAP suggests it could do better.

The rest were representatives of non-governmental organisations, socially responsible investors, US government agencies, service providers, and educational institutions who have expertise in the field.

The research also discovered that buyers use multiple formats to perform social compliance audits: while 96% said they used external parties to conduct them, these included combination internal/external audits, which were used by 52% of those surveyed.

Meanwhile, 52% said they used a combination of announced and unannounced audit visits, 24% used announced audits, and 10% unannounced only.

“Virtually all” buyers said they used third party service providers, out of a desire to have objective validation of compliance and help to improve their own programmes, and many said they looked for attributes including reputation, ethical behaviour, reliability, customer service and quality.

However, only 50% said they accepted external certifications, and some have stopped accepting them, says the report, “due to concerns that some of the certified facilities should not have been certified and to finding facilities with false records or audit results that did not meet their own”.

Furthermore, certification audits were viewed as not as thorough as their own internal processes, with WRAP speculating that “such buyers may also wish to maintain control of the whole process in order to maintain confidence in and integrity of their own system”.

Fifty-five percent of respondents said WRAP could improve the level of trust in its results, while 31% said the organisation could do a better job of communicating changes and improvements made, as well as brand awareness.

“A few of the reasons cited are concerns of inconsistent audit results and discrepancies on records issues,” the report says.

“It boils down to the level of trust and confidence in the certificate as to whether or not it provides adequate assurance that a buyer’s facilities are socially compliant.

“Those who do use WRAP have confidence in the certification, but for some who do not, there is not the same confidence.”

The two key issues which emerged, the report explains, were trust (in WRAP audit reports and in WRAP as a social compliance partner) and communication.

“WRAP has been making a lot of changes over the past couple of years as the organisation seeks to further improve the programme, but as a result of this project, more enhancements are planned,” the report concludes.

Its findings were welcomed by WRAP president and CEO Avedis Seferian. “We are continuing to analyse the information gathered and recommendations shared,” he said.

“Based on what we learned, we are developing plans for the augmentation or expansion of certain activities and/or development of some completely new programmes and relationships.”

To read additional feedback on this article from WRAP president and CEO Avedis Seferian, click on the following link: FEEDBACK: Constructive criticism good for social compliance.