Blog: Leonie BarrieLooking for a quick fix

Leonie Barrie | 25 November 2005

It’s ironic that an ethical sourcing conference organised this week by the Business Social Compliance Initiative – a monitoring system set up to offer a single inspection instead of the range of overlapping audits that many factories seem to be subjected to – has itself been marred by protests against ‘sweatshop cover-ups.’ As one of the bosses behind the BASC scheme commented, why pick on an organisation that is at least trying to tackle the problem?

The BSCI audit has been criticised as being too minimal in its approach and for failing to involve workers and stakeholders such as labour unions and NGOs. In its favour, though, is the fact that it has at least tried to simplify an agonisingly complicated process – and the swelling of its ranks by such high profile retailers as M&S, Inditex, Esprit, Otto, Metro, KarstadtQuelle does seem to support the need for a more practical and straightforward approach to factory monitoring.

But once again it has also raised the question of whether there are simply too many social compliance schemes operating across the clothing industry? And it re-opens the debate on who actually audits the auditors. Is there ever going to be a system that meets the needs of the factory workers, the factories themselves, the retailers…and everyone else with a stake in the garment sourcing process, including the protest groups?


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