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Ten things we need to change in the way we implement sustainability Part 2/10: Beyond auditing

Link to part 1

In the first part I pointed out that I am working on sustainable buying practices since 2004. I have seen it all, good, bad, and ugly. There should be no illusion about good and bad factories. You will be able to tell the good from the bad, easily. At least, when you dare to get there.

Occasionally, you will find someone that behaves decent first but will change later. But from my experience you will be able to tell very soon. First it sounds good, then too good to be true and then…

But the decent ones want your trust and they want to earn it. They will be proud of their achievements. There is no evil factory that was only made to abuse people. But you must have decent risk assessment about the circumstances. With the suitable ones you will soon have a common sense what is possible or not socially, environmentally, and economically. But only if you care and act as if you care, consistently.

Thing No. 2 / 10:

Change our mindset from “They are the problem” to “we master the challenge”

John Ruggie said: “Weighing the pig won’t make it fat.”

Auditing is measuring the status quo. That’s it. We will not safe the world by measuring its demise.

It is time we INVEST in actions between the audits. Many criticize that we are auditing over and over again, year after year without seeing obvious improvements. When we are in the factories we see the change. But we are experts. If we do our jobs well, we are also well enough trained to detect the improvements. Depending on the factory we are even glad if they manage to have consistent audit results.

Do not get me wrong, there is no way, ever, skipping audits. We need to measure. But we need to measure in the right way. An external auditor might be needed but that cannot be “it”. The risk when sending external verification companies does not decrease. We have one more player on the field. It does not automatically improve the quality of the game. It makes it more crowded for sure. Before sending an auditor you should buy a ticket and see the factory for yourself. Or, even better, team up with someone that is ready to understand your factory in a way beyond an audit.

Audits are designed to be neutral. Auditors must be neutral, without any doubt they must be incorruptible to deliver what the were sent out to do: To give without any doubt a neutral estimation of the factory status that enables us to verify the state it is at. How many audits do meet with this basic requirement? 10% or 90%? Who knows? And I could not care less.

I decided to manage the risk myself. I have hired a team to be in the factory, frequently. And I do the audits. And I visit the factories, frequently and personally. There are no surprises, anymore. At least I can say I know what is going on. After all, some risk remains. It is Human nature.

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