PRESS RELEASE – Public
Serious gaps in social responsibility auditing schemes
Finnwatch has today published a report comparing 16 social responsibility certification and auditing schemes used by companies that operate in Finland. Finnwatch criticised the schemes for ignoring workers’ views and for poor quality audits, shortcomings in transparency and the quality of criteria.
The scheme that came out on top in Finnwatch’s comparison is Fairtrade. A scheme develop by the juice industry association SGF came last.
– Social responsibility monitoring schemes have for years been criticised for reinforcing structures that lead to poor working conditions. Despite criticism, problems remain largely unresolved, says Finnwatch’s executive director Sonja Vartiala.
According to Finnwatch, process rights, such as freedom of association and a living wage as a result of collective bargaining, are not adequately taken into account.
– Without the workers organising and a living wage it is impossible to achieve long-term, sustained improvements to working conditions, Vartiala notes.
There are more than 170 different sustainability standards, and responsibility auditing has become a billion euro business.
– Each year, thousands of audits are conducted yet they are often used to demonstrate compliance only on paper. Only a few schemes track the long-term impacts of their activities on workers’ rights, says Anu Kultalahti, a researcher at Finnwatch.
Part of the criticism in the report is addressed to the trade union movement. Finnwatch accuses trade unions of a scattered approach towards certification schemes. Trade unions are needed especially to confirm that audited workplaces have democratic and independent workers’ organisations that can effectively negotiate with the management.
Finnwatch also calls for regulatory control for responsibility monitoring schemes.
– It is not possible for consumers to navigate countless different schemes and make informed purchasing decisions alone. Among the schemes there are also cheap-jacks that allow their label to be used on flimsy grounds, says Kultalahti.
Certifications and social audits are key when companies implement their responsibility to respect human rights.
– Responsibility monitoring schemes are needed, but they must be improved, says Vartiala.
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Finnwatch is a Finnish NGO, focussed on sustainability in global supply chains. Finnwatch is supported by a group of Finnish development and consumer rights organisations and trade unions. The report “Perspectives on the quality of social responsibility monitoring schemes” is available at http://finnwatch.org/images/pdf/PerspectivesOnVSS_forweb.pdf. The report has been produced in cooperation with the Trade Union Solidarity Centre of Finland SASK, Finnwatch’s Decent work research programme and Supply Change Project.