Social Audit: Forced Labor in China
We have written a few times in the past about the value of Social Audit for imports from Asia. Never more has this been apparent than this recent story from the USA. When opening a box of her Chinese-made Halloween decorations, Julie Keith, American, found an alarming letter:
Beyond being a shock for most anyone living in the West, this case serves as a wake-up call to many importers on the dangerous conditions at many factories. Many questions arise from such a shocking situation. How could these conditions exist in this day and age in China? How did someone not know about these conditions? Would a social audit have caught this?
While most importers associate such stories to South and SE Asia, China still has a whole host of social issues present: Child labor, for example, still is widespread. Legal working hours are often not followed carefully. Proper fire and safety conditions are often left unmet. Most severe are cases like the above, where forced labor and imprisonment take place.
What exactly can you do to ensure that you are not working in a factory like the story above?
- Visit your supplier. Make sure to visit the facilities and get a good picture of the conditions and labor rights.
- Hire a professional Social Audit firm to visit your supplier. Because you may not have the language skill or factory expertise required to glean the information necessary, hiring a 3rd party firm to complete a Social Audit will ensure that your supplier is following all standard labor laws. A professional auditor should also be able to ensure that your manufacturing is happening on-site rather than being contracted out to a less compliant supplier.
When social issues are found in overseas suppliers, the importer of record (you) is generally the party who loses reputation – even if they did not know about the supplier’s activities. As always, performing regular checks, like Social Audits, in person or by a reputable third party quality control firm will ensure safer importing!