Most of the international criteria on social accountability have been designed by people from developed countries to be implemented in developing countries. Unfortunately, in many countries, these criteria can’t match the actual local situation, despite their seemingly logical set-up. For instance cultural differences (What is a clean canteen?) or systematic country gaps (Working time in China), make a copy/paste approach unreliable. A first direct consequence is that using these international criteria as strictly as they have been designed, will lead to final audit results to almost always conclude a non-compliant status. This brings no added value, neither to our customers nor to the audited facilities, who feel unrewarded for the efforts already put in in improving the social conditions.
The rating problem is a common one of any auditing / assessing job. Too loose or too strict criteria prevent an actual rating with added value, as every factory will have almost the same rating at the end. But too strict criteria have another consequence. As factories can’t reach the expected level, they look for ways to turn around the problem. If the auditing process focuses on a final ranking (or certificate, or “pass” report…) then all is set for a vicious circle. The factory hides the truth and might falsify documents. A compliant status follows after the audit, the customer can claim to be working with compliant factories, putting more pressure on (other) factories and auditing firms to get even more compliant reports. This is clearly not related with the actual facility performance in terms of social conditions, but more with the facility’s covering-up skills. To avoid this kind of unethical and inefficient approach, the root cause of inadequate criteria must be avoided.
In response to this, WethicA has designed an assessment approach based not only on international criteria, but also taking into account local practices benchmarks. Subsequently, facilities are ranked with competitors, not primarily from an abstract point of view. This view favors the inclusion of local aspects, instead of expecting global requirements to be more than a general principle. It has the additional benefit of keeping all stakeholders involved engaged, thus ensuring a steady progress.
The ranking alone is not enough by itself. We also need to keep in mind western expectations, especially in terms of ethics. Therefore, for each audit, an additional explanation of the specific framework on the impact on workers and the ethical implication accompanies the audit report, making it easier for our customers to comprehend the scope and specificities of that particular project. Combined, this new way of ranking and the related explanation, enable our customers to take decision matching their values and their risk management strategies.
Since the beginning of our activities, the WethicA’s auditors consider themselves as much consultant as auditors. Indeed, our job is not only gathering data, but to make this data useful for our customers and to help them understand the implications of the results.
WethicA’s main purpose is to be multicultural and to facilitate improvements. We build bridges between developed and developing countries. We have a strong “teaching” approach to allow our customers to understand the local situation instead of using data blindly.