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INDEPENDENT MONITORING Many companies have attempted to appease labor rights activists by hiring independent monitors to keep tabs on the factories they work with. They can then broadcast the fact that they passed these thirdparty audits with flying colors. Unfortunately, studies show that these findings aren’t immune to manipulation. “There are potentials for conflicts of interest for firms who make money off auditing to deliver audits that keep their clients happy,” says MIT’s Dara O’Rourke, who has visited several dozen garment factories around the world. “You want to keep clients happy; you want to make sure they continue to hire you. I don’t know if that leads to intentional misstatement of fact, or just going a little softer on issues, or occasionally overlooking things or making sure the checklist leaves out the finer details.” In September 2000, O’Rourke published a report funded by the Independent University Initiative questioning the effectiveness of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the world’s largest private monitor of labor and environmental practices. In 1999, PwC performed over six thousand audits of garment factories for companies such as Nike, Disney, Wal-Mart, the Gap, Jones Apparel, and others. O’Rourke tagged along on a number of inspections in China and Korea and caught a whole host of problems that the PwC auditors missed, like overtime violations, lack of protective equipment, falsified payroll records, and hazardous chemical use. O’Rourke found workers spraying clothes with cleaners made from benzene, a known carcinogen, without wearing safety gear. “So they’re getting direct exposure to something that will give them cancer at high enough doses,” he says. “Those kinds of problems are ones that auditors like PwC often miss because they’re not trained to look at these things.” Also, O’Rourke found that workers were frequently coached by managers about what to say or threatened that they’d lose their jobs if they told the truth. “Workers aren’t stupid,” he says. “They know a management consultant is a consultant to the management, not to them. They know they’re not safe telling them things, so they sometimes censor themselves.” One of the major flaws in the system is that social-auditing firms entered into the situation before they had the trained personnel and general know-how to do the job right. Many of the companies already had financial offices around the world, so they figured, “Hey, look, we’ve got this office in Shanghai with a bunch of people who speak Chinese, and we can get them there tomorrow to your Disney factory or your Nike factory,” says O’Rourke. But auditing a garment factory isn’t as simple as sending a financial accountant into a plant with a clipboard and a checklist, which many companies did. “People go to school for years to learn how to do health and safety audits, so you can’t expect an accountant, even a really smart accountant, to figure it out in a few minutes,” he says.Fashion Jeans – ImgMob Allnewhairstyles

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