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Certification failures

This is the place to show remarkable examples where certification failed, in the wider area of social responsibility,
(i.e. not focusing on ISO 26000 because this guidance standard is not certifiable anyway, see misconceptions and misuse at 
http://www.26k-estimation.com/html/misconceptions_and_misuse.html#Misuse  ). Cases shown here may help rethink all endeavours on auditing and certifying social behaviour/responsibility.
If you are aware of other cases that should be mentioned in this context, please contact the author.

Contents
Various factual cases of flawed factory inspections in Asia
Ali Enterprise, Pakistan, September 2012

 

 

Fast and Flawed Inspections of Factories Abroad, NYT, 2 September 2013
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/02/business/global/superficial-visits-and-trickery-undermine-foreign-factory-inspections.html?pagewanted=all&goback=%2Egde_60263_member_270554478&_r=1& (2013-09-08)

This article is worthwhile reading because it describes in detail various factual cases how problematic factory inspection in Asian countries can be. It explains the trouble with audits and examples of the cats-and-mouse game between factory owners and inspectors, and how inspection rules are bypassed.

A short example of a sentence may raise your interest to read the whole article:
“The question-and-answer sheet that the factory’s manager distributed to all the employees was explicit: if an inspector ever asked, “Are there injury records?” they were your answer, “Have not heard of any work-related injuries.”

The article also puts a light on the role of major inspection companies like SGS, Intertek and Bureau Veritas.

What kind of conclusion can be drawn from this article?
The answer is easy: if audits are flawed the certificates don’t have any value.

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Ali Enterprise, Pakistan, September 2012

This textile factory was certified to SA 8000, a standard on social accountability. The factory burned down and caused more
than 300 dead workers.

On its website, the issuing organisation SAI (Social Accountability International), states:

“The SA8000ᆴ standard is the central document of our work at SAI. It is one of the world’s first auditable social certification standards for decent workplaces, across all industrial sectors. It is based on conventions of the ILO, UN and national laws. The SA8000® standard spans industry and corporate codes to create a common language for measuring social compliance. Those seeking to comply with SA8000® have adopted policies and procedures that protect the basic human rights of workers. The management system supports sustainable implementation of the principles of SA8000®: child labor, forced and compulsory labor, health and safety, freedom of association and right to collective bargaining, discrimination, disciplinary practices, working hours, remuneration.”
Source: http://www.sa-intl.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=Page.ViewPage&PageID=937

The New York Times investigated the situation and reported on 19 September 2012, giving more detailed information.
In essence:

  • the Italian certification institute RINA Group that carried out the audit and certification on behalf of SAI, and
  • SAI is engaged in a broad review of its entire certification process.

The New York Times article is available at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/20/world/asia/pakistan-factory-passed-inspection-before-fire.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1

In short:

  • A prominent factory monitoring group heavily financed by industry gave a clean bill of health to a Pakistani apparel plant last month, just weeks before a fire engulfed the premises and killed nearly 300 workers, many of them trapped behind locked exit doors.
  • …a fire swept the plant on Sept. 12, trapping hundreds of workers in a building with barred windows and just one open exit…
  • For international rights campaigners, the fact that the factory had been certified by a respected Western organization made clear the failings of a controversial 15-year-old industry initiative.
    [Remark GG: the SA8000 was private initiative of those interested in gaining revenues from certification, not an industry initiative!]
  • Social Accountability International said it had [Remark GG: “now”] suspended work in Pakistan with the RINA Group, an Italian company that carried out the Ali Enterprises audit on its behalf. It added that it was engaged in a broad review of its entire certification process.
  • … a two-person government commission of inquiry … has already uncovered evidence of gross failings in Pakistan’s regulatory system, which is riddled with corruption, political interference and poor management….
  • In an e-mail, a company spokeswoman told European labor rights activists that it had obtained three independent audits of Ali Enterprises. The factory failed to meet fire safety standards during a 2007 check, but those problems were remedied by the time of a subsequent check in December 2011…
  • Social Accountability International said the two inspectors spent four days at the Karachi plant. …the plant’s managers had been warned of the visit. …future inspections would have been without advance notice
  • A European antisweatshop group, criticized the audit process. “Workers are often told what to tell the auditor,” she said. “The inspections are announced, and there is time to do things like open exit doors that other times are locked.”
  • …some surviving workers said they had been warned of a visit by inspectors and coached to lie about their working conditions, under threat of dismissal.

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