Ethical Audits (SMETA, SIZA and GRASP)

As a fundamental principle, all businesses everywhere, regardless of size or sector, have a responsibility to respect human rights, as recognised by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs).

Importantly, the UNGPs and ETI’s own guidance for companies for human rights due diligence framework, go beyond simple compliance. They demand that business finds out about the risk to human rights by “investing in a more inclusive due diligence approach i.e. through understanding, prioritising, mitigating and reporting on risk”. Ethical audits such as SMETA , SIZA, GRASP, etc are meant to ensure businesses are able to determine their level or risk and also mitigate the risk of abusing the rights of their workers and by extension, the environment of which the workers live and work.

Ethical audits are designed to dig deep into company records and systems to ensure reliability and accuracy of the information provided. In most cases, companies do not deliberately infringe on workers‘ rights but it is because they do not have enough information and expertise on site to advise on issues of compliance.

It is also not lost that audits can become a box-ticking exercise if they are driven by the desire to certify a site for sourcing, rather than genuinely trying to assess the situation for workers. Time and again, we have heard of audits having little real involvement with workers, and the companies that commission them not investing in high quality follow ups.

Normally in the food and beverage industry, they would be Food Safety Management Systems (FSMS) audits and ethical audits. FSMS audits generally deal with quantitative, easily measurable data supported by procedures and policies Ethical issues, on the other hand, are more often qualitative or subjective in nature. Several qualitative research techniques make an ethical audit possible. Considering multiple perspectives to gain a big-picture understanding of a company’s commitment to ethics is the key to an ethical audit.

Detecting unethical business practices can be difficult in your own business. It’s especially challenging when your suppliers are trying to hide unscrupulous activity from you.

Normal audits can also miss key issues such as discrimination against minority groups or management resistance to allowing workers their right to freedom of association. If companies manage risk, they need to have confidence in the working conditions of the people who produce the goods they sell. Audits can help with this, but their scope is limited. To meaningfully improve labour standards, audits must be used alongside human rights due diligence.

ASC Consultants help with monitoring of ethical practises in business by conducting ethical audits on suppliers as well as offering pre-readiness certification audits for standards such as SIZA, SMETA, etc.

The benefits of having ASC Consultants help with ethical audit consulting are the following:

  • Work with highly experienced and motivated consultants
  • Strengthen and protect your brand image and reputation
  • Manage liability within your global supply chain
  • Secure long-term relations with customers and suppliers and continued development in the area of social accountability
  • Secure stakeholders including investors, customers, regulators, activists, labour unions and the news media

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