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Make it personal!

Go beyond the audit to ensure high ethical standards, say Carousel


PERSONAL visits are how Carousel Calendars recommend companies ensure the products they’re buying meet the high ethical standards they expect.

“Ethical standards remain a key focus,” said Carousel MD Steve Plackett, “we have to renew our efforts to ensure all our manufacturing is of the highest ethical standards that we can achieve and there is always more that can be done.
“It is very easy for publishers like us to do a tick-box exercise and, sadly, it’s all too easy for certain manufacturers around the world to obtain relevant certification by using the usual tricks in the trade to obtain it.
“A personal visit gets to the bottom of these things quite quickly and we have to go beyond the audit to keep our focus on this area. It takes time and cost and resource to do this.”
Sourcing data platform Sedex carry out what are called SMETA (Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audit) two or four-pillar audits which companies can request on any factory.
Steve said that using these reports, in his view, going beyond the audit means:
l Visit the factory – the auditors cannot cover everything, and the factories need to know that you care about ethical trading and the environment and that you are willing to put the effort in as a buyer.
l Checking the factory is the same factory that has been audited. It might not be!
l A factory could have a perfect audit, but still not have the right equipment to manufacture calendars (or cards or stationery) and therefore a lot could be subcontracted. A personal visit makes this easy to check. An auditor is unlikely to pick this up as may be unfamiliar with the specific machinery required.
l Read the audit, don’t just file it. The audit may have been conducted at an address that basically just does the invoicing and employs 20 staff whereas the factory may employ 1,000 staff that is a sister company and so avoids being checked.
l Read the audit details and the critical action plan report (CAPR). This almost certainly will have the main audit findings and things that the factory should complete in a given time line. Some of these can be critical and need to be followed up. This takes time as each action plan needs reviewing and timelines need recording.
l Work with the factory to help them meet the standards you want. If they are inexperienced, they will need and appreciate the help.
Steve added: “If an audit is 100 per perfect, I’d question it. For a factory, it’s a tough job going through any audit process and, in my experience, the best factories still have areas to improve on.
“Similarly, I’ve visited very poor factories with perfect audits. So, all isn’t what it may seem.”

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