Human Rights Watch Report on the Shortcomings of Social Audits

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Human Rights Watch’s new report on the shortfalls of social audits was released this week: ‘Obsessed with Audit Tools, Missing the Goal’: Why Social Audits Can’t Fix Labor Rights Abuses in Global Supply Chains. It provides recommendations for policymakers and regulators to better hold companies, as well as auditors and certifiers, accountable for human rights and environmental due diligence in their supply chains.

The report highlights Transparentem’s work in India, Malaysia, and Myanmar, where we uncovered a number of deceitful tactics used to mislead auditors, including falsifying documents, coaching workers to lie, and hiding workers who appeared to be employed unlawfully.

Whether due to inadequate training or capacity, insufficient resources, or active deception and misrepresentation, social audits do not sufficiently or fully identify labor rights abuses in a given factory. Moreover, social audits often do not lead to the systemic improvements we strive to achieve in our own work. For more on what companies, investors, and other NGOs can do to combat audit deception, check out our report, Hidden Harm.

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