Audits are the thing we all love to hate. Brands, manufacturers, multi-stakeholder initiatives and NGO’s depend on audits to provide data on social compliance issues as well as health and safety in the workplace. And while a critical tool for monitoring and certifying supply chains, millions spent each year carrying out validation programs, incomplete coverage due to overall expense, and awareness that competitors and industry partners are likely duplicating our efforts, have us all feeling like there should be something better.

Currently divergent assessment methodologies limit opportunities for streamlining validation efforts. Manufacturers feels these challenges most acutely. Focus, energy, and team resources are positioned to understand nuance of each assessment and how to pass them. Needless to say, it creates an environment where passing an audit obscures the purpose of the audit in the first place, identifying issues, and fixing the underlying problems through operational and other improvements.

The Social Labor Convergence Project (SLCP) aims to structurally change how brands and manufacturers approach assessments by creating a common standards agnostic framework and verification methodology that reduces duplication of efforts by facilitating the sharing of data across stakeholders. This common assessment and verification framework seeks to eliminate the structural challenges of existing validation efforts and enable focus on solving problems.

A single converged assessment framework helps us all in many ways, including:

  • Reducing cost. Auditing programs are expensive. Manufacturers often employ full-time staff or hire consultants to help manage audits. A single converged assessment tool makes cost sharing possible, and allows factory teams to reduce hours spent preparing for audits.
  • Standardized data. Copious amounts of data are generated each year but this data is not comparable due to the methodology in collection. A common raw data set allows better utilization of technology in monitoring reporting, and sharing results.
  • Data sharing. A single assessment tool and verification methodology facilitates sharing of data. The potential to share raw results enables re-allocation of current resources to increase overall coverage, and the possibility of overall savings.
  • Focus. Different audit methodologies imposed on a single manufacturer cause focus on the mechanics of each audit and not underlying issues. A single assessment framework allows manufacturers and brands to solve more problems due to simplification and standardization of the data gathering process.

SLCP’s data collection and assessment tool provides an opportunity for brands and manufacturers to lead out on these increasingly visible social sustainability issues, propelling those who choose to streamline their auditing process ahead of their competition.

Mason Chenn is vice president of business development at MicroBenefits, a technology company in the social sustainability space that provides mobile solutions to front-line workers. He recently relocated from Arlington, VA to Hong Kong where he resides with his wife and young son.