We utilize the services of independent, third-party auditors in order to monitor
and improve the conditions at our factories worldwide according to SA8000
protocol. Our monitoring partners include Verité, Intertek, Fair Working
Conditions, and TAOS Network. We conduct the majority of our audits on an
unannounced basis and change monitoring partners every few years to help
ensure the integrity of our audit findings.
Factory audits cover manager and worker interviews as well as health and
safety walk-throughs. We include questions on human trafficking and slavery
in our interviews when appropriate. As a member of the Fair Factories
Clearinghouse, we are able to collaborate with other brands on audits and
training programs, as well as work together on remediation programs.
Partnering in this way reduces audit fatigue on factories and leaves us with
more resources to invest in empowering workers and educating managers.
We are also exploring a new, innovative way to give workers voice through cell
phone surveys. This affordable and scalable technology is used to promote
fair wages, monitor working conditions, track social impact and engage with
workers. Most importantly, it allows us to hear directly from the workers
themselves. Currently, we are partnering with Good World Solutions and Social
Accountability International in its Labor Link project in India, and hope to
expand our partnership to the US, China and Peru as well.
Typical Audit Issues
- Health and Safety: Infrequent fire drills, missing pulley guards or eye guards
on sewing machines, incomplete first aid kit, blocked aisle or exit, unsafe
chemical storage, fire extinguisher not maintained/marked.
- Working Hours: Excessive overtime, inconsistent time records.
- Remuneration: Payroll inaccuracies, insufficient social insurance coverage, delayed payment of terminated/resigned employees.
- Management Systems: Lack of internal policies and procedures.
Audits worldwide have shortcomings, and ours are no exception. The root
causes for audit issues vary based on local laws and individual circumstances.
Once an audit is conducted, our Social Consciousness team, our
manufacturing team and our global-sourcing partner work collaboratively with
our suppliers to implement corrective action plans. Certain issues are easily
remedied, while others may take longer. Once we have given the factories
enough time to rectify a problem, we conduct a follow-up audit to see if the
issue has truly been addressed.
An audit provides a good snapshot of a factory at one moment in time.
However, we believe it is by continuing to educate managers and train workers
that we can make truly meaningful changes in our supply chain. Stable and
enduring relationships give us the leverage to positively influence conditions in
In addition to the monitoring efforts conducted at our global factories, 70% of
which are in China, we have been exploring various ways to help support the
homeworkers we employ in Peru and India. These are the men and women
who handloom or hand-knit scarves and sweaters and work outside of the
traditional factory settings. In Peru, we have a reliable, socially conscious
manufacturing partner. But in India, it is difficult to know such things as how
much of a cut a middleman takes or whether illiteracy prevents the workers
from understanding their government benefits.
To understand the homeworker community in West Bengal, India, we
commissioned ASK- Verité to conduct a study using ETI Base Code as
a guideline. Based on the results, we plan to start a holistic community
development project focusing on five areas: social and economic
empowerment, occupational health and women's health, children's education,
safe drinking water and wastewater management, and design innovation. We
hope to expand our community engagement to Rajasthan, another homeworker
community that supplies our scarves.
Although homeworkers are a small part of our business, the homeworking
business model is important to us, because it keeps families and communities
intact and preserves traditional crafts.