Preparing a speech, I had to think to the impact of culture for international procurement and especially responsible sourcing. Even if my purpose was to explain the situation commonly found in China, I thought better and took the auditor job globally.
Culture of a country, of an area, influences all the activities as we could define the culture as the specificities of interactions within a group. Then culture influences the auditing as well as the design of audit criteria and audit documents. We have to keep in mind that audit criteria and documents are mainly designed by western people.
Frequently criteria refer to written evidences or signature on some documents. It is actually a strong cultural sign. Writing and signatures are key components of occidental approach. But it is not universal. Here is a Chinese example. A signed contract will be refused. Only the stamp is the formal proof.
When issuing reports, we have sometimes some appeal because we can’t produce written evidence on gaps on working time for example as we have been provided with fake records. We have several independent information source confirming the falsification of documents, but no inconsistencies on records themselves as they have been designed purposefully. Does the missing written evidence mean there is no gap? Or should we limit our job to documents checking only?
Even more surprising, some criteria state the factories should avoid forced labor by avoiding to keep workers personal papers or, the workers have to sign a document indicating the worker’s agreement for the factory to keep the passport or Id card. How could we trust such document, even signed and written? If the factory is able to keep those documents against the workers’ will, it means it is powerful enough to enforce it. So it can easily ask the workers to sign such a document. In countries where writing and signature are not that important, getting this kind of document is a minor problem.
Thus, one of the problems with audit criteria that goes deeper than principle and focus on methods is methods are much impacted by culture, then they often don’t make much sens in other countries.