Increasingly, retailers, brands and multi-stakeholder groups are adding worker feedback into their social compliance programs and standards. We are excited that workers are finally being included into the process, but caution that the trend to conduct worker surveys quickly and haphazardly could hurt workers more than help.
The trend to conduct worker surveys quickly and haphazardly could hurt workers more than help.
The power dynamic of a traditional audit is clear: buyer > supplier. The same cannot be said about worker participation in an audit; a worker's honesty could lead to their employer failing the audit and thus, the worker losing their job. Thus, incorporating worker voice into social compliance programs must be more comprehensive then simply deploying a survey to collect data.
Trust is at the core of all worker engagement efforts. Workers must trust that responses are anonymous and must trust the integrity of the process or handling feedback. Putting value judgements on worker feedback often produces misleading results. Workers who do not feel like their situation will change will not speak up, while those who do believe their voice can create change will speak up. This results in facilities with the least vulnerable, most vocal workers having the "lowest" scores. The industry's incentive for 'good feedback' inevitably affects all feedback.
The industry's incentive for 'good feedback' inevitably affects all feedback.
Technologies facilitating direct access to those whom social compliance programs were designed to protect can transform the way we understand and measure risks. They also tempt us into thinking there is an easy solution to a complex problem. Simply because technology has evolved does not mean the social infrastructures in which those technologies will be used can be neglected and ignored.
Simply because technology has evolved, does not mean the social infrastructures in which those technologies will be used can be neglected and ignored.
Holistic worker engagement and voice programs should be disassociated from audits, conducted with employers, be action oriented and include worker follow-up. Collecting the right data with the right incentives can not only help you better understand, but also reduce risks while improving the lives of workers.
Using the right incentives to collect the right data, can not only help you better understand, but also reduce risks while improving the lives of workers.
To help companies better incorporate worker voice into their compliance programs we've designed the Labor Solutions' Maximizing Worker Voice in Compliance Program. The comprehensive program, available globally, integrates strategy, technology and capacity building to help you effectively integrate worker feedback into your risk and compliance programs.
The program brings together our survey technology, designed specifically for complex supply chains, with the experience and expertise of our team in a structured format that makes implementation easy, and long term sustainability possible.
While we recommend supplier engagement, we know that it's not possible for everyone. We also know everyone is in a different point in their sustainability journey and capacity, therefore we've designed three levels of engagement to meet you where you are.
No matter where you start, we'll craft a sustainable solution for you and your suppliers.