It would have been difficult this month to avoid to talk about Bangladesh although I usually avoid too hot news. I won’t relate the details. You can have many newspapers article here.
or here and
Many analysis have been released to. Some are really matching the spirit of WethicA’s newsletter as this one . I could ( and have actually often done) have stressed the difference between legal and responsible. However, I would like to add two points. But before, I want to remind I usually use and describe a risk management approach. This is actually also a responsible approach as it leads to factories improvement and it tends to prevent the boycott of whole countries. I remind that factories are a major development tool of poor countries. Populations need the jobs and global boycott brings huge consequences on the population. The risk management allows a more flexible approach with leading towards improvement.
The risk management is mainly based on seeking suppliers a little better socially speeching than the average of the country. Compliance approach are unfortunately not always applicable (because the local laws and actual situation are not matching, because laws are missing on some topics [many countries have no legal minimum wages or maximum working time]). However not every topic can be managed through risk management by a benchmarking with the local average. It is the “trigger” topics. The collapse of a building has triggered a media feedback, whatever the law may or not be, the local practice may or not be. The Rana Plaza is typical on that matter. Medias have talked of it worldwide. Many have pointed out the building was illegal as the owner had added several floors after the first construction. This is a usual practice in Bangladesh.
The triggers are usually of two main kinds. The accidents, leading to very visible casualties as building collapse, fires, major chemical accidents… and the highly unacceptable practices in western point of view as child and forced labor. Thus with being only rational, building safety is a more sensitive point that machines safety. Machines are nonetheless able to lead to many accidents and injured people among the years. But it is done one by one while a fire would lead to a one time huge consequences. On the long term the consequences would probably impact more people with a dangerous machine, but that won’t lead to media article. All the same, some sensitive topics in western countries as child labor could lead to towering consequences compare with the actual problems (a worker anticipating the legal date of few weeks). In this second case, the risk management has to take into account not only the problem itself, but mainly the potential media article. Thus, although it is very frequent in many countries to start working few weeks before the legal age instead of waiting at home between the end of the school year and the birthday to be legally entitled to work, it is a risk that can not be taken.
The second point is much more simple. One of the most important risk is actually related to the management of the supply chain. Trusting the suppliers must be controlled. Statements from importer, agents even written, certificate and audit report are not a protection or a shield. In the newspapers only the brands names are given, not the one of the agents. It is not said if the factories were audited… The risk management is to avoid such factories, not to think being protected by documents that prevent no accident nor its consequence. Audits report are tools to take decision on factories and suppliers. They can’t actually be used as shield.
The management of the risks related to social level of suppliers is unfortunately a too complex topic to be properly followed by a simple level to reach. Analysis of each situation and related decision are then still necessary.