Qing Zhang, Executive Director of TAOS Network in China
What´s the best practice for remediating persistent non-compliance on transparency or inconsistent records? The answer is for all brands to come together to stop the non-transparency of suppliers.
TAOS has been working with brands that tried very hard to help factories improve their transparency by providing guidance and developing realistic correction action plans (CAP). However, if all brands do not insist on transparency or if the audit report is provided by a certified audit form where the information is shared by many brands, the factory generally prefers to practice non-transparency as non-transparency appears to carry less “risk”. Further, remediation in areas such as overtime wages, etc. can be expensive and can leave the factory at a disadvantage in a highly competitive marketplace where many factories are violating best practices in social compliance.
Adding to the pressure to be non-transparent, factory management is under tremendous pressure to achieve quick profits whereas even in health and safety where the CAP can help raise the productivity level, the factory is, nevertheless, required to make investments that negatively impact the bottom line in the short term.
As highlighted, brands need to come together to focus on developing programs that address the complex situation on the ground instead of just providing a grade. Recently, we audited a factory that used many temporary workers. These workers are all full time employees from the nearby factories. The reason was that the factories they work full time in recently came into compliance on overtime; however, the workers still needed the extra money, so in essence, the problem wasn’t addressed but rather moved. In other words, when one factory met the working hour standard, the other factory broke the standard of using temporary workers without providing all of the legally required paper work and having the workers work long hours including Sundays.
This tells us that when we think we have done so much to implement CSR intiatives and to improve conditions for the factory workers, we should ask how much do we actually know about and how do our solutions address these workers’ needs. Further, it shows the need for brands to come together to address issues as the conditions in one factory are linked to the conditions in another.