Compliance Programs: Social Accountability Is A Good Place To Start
Throughout the past few years, I have had many conversations with companies who understand and use World Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP) and Fair Labor Association (FLA) certifications as their compliance programs. These companies are to be commended for making it a practice of using WRAP or FLA certifications as part of their factory qualification process, and on some level this makes sense. These are good programs, so why would you go through the trouble and expense of building your own compliance program when you can tout something that your factory has accomplished?
While these programs have merit, they just address one area of compliance—and they may not transfer through to your organization. While social accountability is a good place to start being compliant, these programs don't constitute a true compliance program. Here's why (but first, a little background):
Driven by the shoe and apparel industries, WRAP is a factory-level program that has been around since the late 1990s and could arguably be considered the predecessor to the Corporate Social Responsibility programs (CSRs) many Fortune 1000 companies now have in place. Most of these CSRs embrace the UN Global Compact's 10 principles in the areas of human rights, labor, the environment and anti-corruption. These principals are the primary factors being evaluated in social responsibility audits. FLA evolved out of a Presidential Roundtable, is somewhat similar in scope and has gained traction through the support of organizations such as Nike and Adidas who are heavily invested in social accountability efforts.
It's also common to run into companies who are using Social Accountability 8000 (SA8000) as their basis for social accountability audits. SA8000 has created standards for what a universally recognized social accountability audit should include.
So why are these programs only a good start instead of a complete solution? Well, WRAP and FLA, for instance, are generally factory-level certifications that focus solely on social accountability. In other words, if you are using only WRAP and FLA, you could very well be outsourcing your compliance program to your factories—giving them all the control while putting you at risk for any noncompliance.