In a globalized supply chain where clothing production is typically outsourced to developing nations with low-wage labor and shaky social and environmental protections, audits have become a non-negotiable means of managing risks and protecting brands from potential scandal. With multiple, often disparate standards for assessing compliance, however, it isn’t unusual for one supplier to field dozens of audits from different brands in a single month, draining time and money that could be better invested elsewhere.
“Audit fatigue is a huge problem,” Janet Mensink, executive director of the Social & Labor Convergence Program (SLCP), told Sourcing Journal. “There is a broad consensus that auditing alone does not improve working conditions yet, until now, a disproportionate amount of resources [has] been dedicated to auditing.”
The SLCP emerged at the tail end of 2015 after a group of garment industry stakeholders, including the International Labour Organization’s Better Work program, Fair Trade U.S.A. and Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production, decided to tackle the twofold problem of reducing the audit burden on manufacturers and freeing up millions of dollars every year for improving labor conditions. Their efforts led to the creation of the Converged Assessment Framework (CAF), a robust, harmonized tool meant to replace repetitive and frequently duplicative social and labor audits. Already, the SLCP can point to its first “concrete” case studies of audit reduction at the factory level, Mensink said.