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Monitoring: How are codes enforced?

How are codes enforced?

Companies usually rely on internal monitoring of factory conditions by their own personnel. Some hire social auditing firms to verify that they and/or their suppliers are following the code.

In a very few instances, companies have responded to public pressure about specific sweatshop abuses by mandating local non-governmental and human rights organizations to monitor conditions in specific factories for limited periods of time.

Reports from internal monitors or external auditors are rarely made public. And companies generally do not disclose the locations of the factories where their clothes are manufactured, making it virtually impossible for labour or human rights organizations to confirm whether the company is living up to its standards.

Monitoring and Verification

Some consumer products companies now admit that internal monitoring (by company staff) of supplier compliance with codes of conduct is not adequate, and that some form of third-party external verification is needed for codes to have any legitimacy.

Debates continue over who should do the audits and what their relationship should be with the companies whose suppliers' practices are being audited.

In a few instances, companies have mandated or contracted local NGOs or respected Northern health and safety activists to carry out audits of particular factories. In Cambodia, the International Labour Organization carries out inspections of factories as part of a unique program which came out of the US-Cambodia Textile Agreement.

More often, Northern apparel and toy companies contract Northern social auditing firms to carry out audits of factories. Many Southern groups are very critical of the private sector social auditing model. They question whether Northern social auditing firms, with little or no human rights experience, will be able to determine whether workers' rights are being violated. Northern auditors will not be trusted by workers, they say, because workers will view them as company representatives.

Most civil society groups in both the North and South believe global monitoring and verification systems will only be successful if workers are knowledgeable about and actively involved in these processes. As well, local NGOs who know the country, the labour conditions and have the confidence of the workers must be given a more active role than merely being consulted by "professional" auditors.

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