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.
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 our factories.
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.