As a fundamental principle, all businesses everywhere, regardless of size or sector, are responsible for respecting human rights, as recognised by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs).
Ethical audits such as SMETA/SEDEX, SIZA, GRASP, etc. are meant to ensure businesses can determine their level of risk and mitigate the risk of abusing their workers’ rights 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 the information provided’s reliability and accuracy. 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 workers’ situation. 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.
Generally, 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 unethical activity from you.
Normal audits can also miss critical 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 ethical practices in business by conducting ethical audits on suppliers and 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