Unlike an impersonal survey or questionnaire, the value of site visit monitoring is that a company s team has person-to-person access to management and workers at a factory or farm. But effective interviews require good training, sensitivity, and a willingness to look beyond management assurances ” to interview workers at different levels, gain their trust, and be able to understand the reality of day-to-day working conditions and environmental procedures on days when the inspection team are not on site. This is particularly important in developing world operations where the difficulties of managing against widely varying norms for working conditions, wage rates, and working hours is compounded by broad differences in cultural norms and languages.
Monitoring must take account of local culture and language including the nuances of words and body language, says Jane Tate of HomeNet, an NGO concerned with improving working conditions of laborers who receive work ” stitching footballs, sewing soft toys ” at home, in developing countries . In many cultures women workers will not speak openly to male auditors , or they will speak in groups but not individually. For that reason, our inspections are conducted wherever possible by teams comprising both women and men. In some cultures, respect for age is such that young auditors will make little progress, while elsewhere, younger workers feel best able to talk to people of their own age. [16 ]
Finally, as with the CERO in the buying company, it can be helpful to have the supplier s management team appoint a point person that will be responsible for assisting with all aspects of the code implementation and audit process. This single supplier contact will help provide the CERO and his or her team with a responsible, single point of contact for coordinating all logistics, scheduling, and data gathering activities.
Monitoring compliance with labour codes demands the right team, the right methodology, skill and sensitivity, says the Ethical Trading Initiative in its Annual Report. Interviewing skills are vital . Interviewers must be able to select a cross-section of the workers, not least the ones who look intimidated, and get to the heart of workers everyday reality. Our experience shows that commercial audit firms are good at identifying health and safety issues, but sensitive interview techniques of the kind used in community development can reveal more about everyday abuse of workers rights. [17 ]
But selecting and monitoring suppliers is only half of the battle. A good ethical supply chain program also requires a company to ensure proper verification of supplier performance ” something best accomplished through a well-organized and professional audit process.
[16 ] The Ethical Trading Initiative s 2000 “2001 Annual Report, op. cit.
[17 ] Ibid.