Social audit firms are responsible for a number of fatal accidents in the readymade garment sector in countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Malaysia, says a global worker rights group Clean Clothes Campaign. These firms protect the profit and reputation of brands but fail to protect garment workers’ safety and improve working condition in the supply chain. The audits stand in the way of more effective models that include mandatory transparency and binding commitments to remediation.
Examples are the Ali Enterprises factory fire in Pakistan in September 2012, in which over 250 workers died, unable to escape due to bars on exits and windows; the devastating collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh in April 2013, which killed 1,134 workers and left thousands more injured and traumatised; and the July 2017 boiler explosion in the Multifabs factory in Bangladesh, killing and injuring dozens of workers. Each of these factories had been assessed and declared safe by auditing companies. In the case of both Ali Enterprises and Rana Plaza, accredited auditors had deemed these facilities safe just weeks or months before they were reduced to ruins. In the case of Ali Enterprises, this assessment was made by auditors who reportedly never even visited the building.