Case study: Child Labor - Surprisingly Still Common
Surprisingly Still Common
After a recent spate of disasters in Bangladesh, including factory fires and collaps-
es, a major clothing brand in the UK had concerns about coming under great-
er scrutiny about the standards being applied in their supply chain. They had
already been performing product inspections to ensure quality was high, but they
had been neglecting audits covering fire safety and corporate social responsibility.
These events highlighted the dire consequences of not performing audits and
they knew they had to act fast. As AsiaInspection was already performing inspec-
tions for the brand they approached AI to implement a complete audit process to
ensure worker safety and brand protection.
The objective was to have greater oversight over their supply chain, protect
workers and ensure the brand would not be subject to future scandals.
It is common for factories in Bangladesh to sub-contract work to unlicensed and unau-
dited factories. These factories often put workers in danger through lack of health and
safety checks and it is not uncommon to find child labor. In November 2012 a fire
at a garment factory in Bangladesh killed 127 people and in May 2013 a factory col-
lapse killed over 1,100 are testaments to the dangerous and unscrupulous working
conditions that are rife in Bangladesh. As a result, a brand might be under the impres-
sion that they are adhering to the regulations in Bangladesh and in their home country,
but in reality the actions of factories negate any checks they may have completed
initially by contracting work out to a third party unbeknownst to the buyer. Global
businesses such as Walmart experienced this first hand when their manufactur-
ing was unknowingly subcontracted to the factory in Tarzeen where the fire broke out.
With its expertise in Social Auditing AI helped the client setup a thorough audit process
for all 37 of their factories in Bangladesh.
“We were shocked to find child labor
in one of our factories - the discrete
and fast actions by AI allowed us
to take effective action and have a
solid plan in place for the future.”
Director of the British clothing company
A major UK apparel brand with
signature stores in Europe, Asia,
the Middle East and NorthAmerica
The plan included working with the brand to identify high risk factories which AI would target for surprise Social Audits, with
the remaining factories being told that a Social Audit would take place in the near future. Surprise Social Audits are useful for
catching blatant violations which was important in this case, but it is useful to note that factories will often say they didn’t have
time to have documentation prepared, which is why notice is usually given.
AI organised the Social Audits, following the SA8000 Standard, the world’s most credible social audit certification standard
that encourages organizations to develop, maintain, and apply socially acceptable practices in the workplace. The Social Audit
reports were prepared the same day that they took place and the brand was instantly able to benchmark the results via their
online account dashboard.
After the initial Social Audits, During Production Check’s (DUPRO’s) were recommend by AI to ensure redundancy measures
were in place to compliment the Social Audits, guaranteeing that the product was actually being manufactured in the approved
facility and not off-site at an unapproved sub-contractor.
A schedule was then created to ensure that each factory (including any new ones) would receive the full range of audits
every 6 months.
Our rapid response found minor issues in 12 factories and two severe problems which could
have caused major damage to the brand. To their surprise, it was discovered that one of their
long-term suppliers had two workers under the age of 14 working on the factory floor. In a
second location it was found that work was being sub-contracted to an unlicensed factory which
had all its windows and doors barred – disastrous if a fire were to break out.
In the first case AI alerted the brand and they worked with the factory to correct the problem. The solution was to ensure
the factory hired two of the children’s family members to take their place so there was no loss of revenue for the household.
In addition, a second follow-up audit was carried out at the factories expense. In the second instance, business with the
sub-contracting supplier was suspended and they were reported to the Bangladeshi authorities.
Longer term, rolling audits will ensure that situations such as these are found quickly and solutions are put in place and
verified. In addition audits are now a requirement for any new factory before any work is awarded by the brand. All these
processes ensure the workers and the brand are fully protected.