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Background Materials & Analysis

Research from the last decade which critically discusses and analyses social auditing models and practices.

Below is a sample of research, mostly published in the last decade, which critically discusses and analyzes social auditing models and practices in general, specifically in the garment industry and other industries. If you are aware of any other materials on this issue, relating to any sector, please send them to Saskia Wilks at wilks [at] business-humanrights.org and Johannes Blankenbach at blankenbach [at] business-humanrights.org.

This summary of a workshop organised by Business & Human Rights Resource Centre and Clean Clothes Campaign in December 2018 in Brussels provides further insights: 'From social auditing to human rights due diligence'

The summary and below list are part of our portal on 'Beyond Social Auditing'.


AFL-CIO: "Responsibility outsourced: Social audits, workplace certification and twenty years of failure to protect worker rights", 2013

Chris Albin-Lackey, Human Rights Watch: "'Without rules' A failed approach to corporate accountability", 2013

Asia Monitor Resource Centre: "The Reality of Corporate Social Responsibility: Case Studies on the Impact of CSR on Workers in China, South Korea, India and Indonesia", 2012

Stephanie Barrientos and Sally Smith, Third World Quarterly: "Do workers benefit from ethical trade? Assessing codes of labour practice in global production systems", 2007 [restricted access]

Jennifer Blair and Florence Palpacuer, Cambridge University Press: "The institutionalization of supply chain corporate social responsibility: field formation in comparative context", 2015 [restricted access] 

Garrett Brown: "Factory certification schemes pose danger to safety & health profession", 2013

Garrett Brown: "Fatal flaws of foreign factory audits: 'A spectacular failure' to improve conditions", 2013

Garrett Brown: "Global supply chains still full of sweatshops", 2016

Garrett Brown: "The Record of Failure and Fatal Flaws of CSR Factory Monitoring" (newspaper), 2013 

Garrett Brown: "Hansae Vietnam: Case study of hazardous working conditions and the failure of corporate social responsibility audits to fix the hazards", 2016

Garrett Brown: "The corporate responsibility mirage: Research shows minimal impact for the billions spent in the past 25 years", 2017

Stephanie Clifford and Steven Greenhouse, The New York Times: "Fast and flawed inspections of factories abroad", 2013

Tim Connor, Annie Delaney and Sarah Rennie: "The Ethical Trading Initiative: Negotiated solutions to human rights violations in global supply chains", 2016

ETI: "Secrets and lies: Uncovering ethical trade audit fraud" (DVD), 2007

T.A. Frank, Washington Monthly: "Confessions of a Sweatshop Inspector", 2008

Luc Fransen, Socio-Economic Review: "Multi-stakeholder governance and voluntary programme interactions: legitimation politics in the institutional design of Corporate Social Responsibility", 2012 [restricted access]

Alexandra Harney, Penguin Press: "The China Price" (Book), 2008

Michael Hobbes: "Saving the world, one meaningless buzzword at a time. How corporations, activists and politicians turned the language of human rights into meaningless babble", 2017

Guojun He and Jeffrey M. Perloff: "Does customer auditing help chinese workers?", 2013 [restricted access]

Sarosh Kuruvilla, Mingwei Lu, Chunyun Li and Wansi Chen: "Field opacity and practice-outcome decoupling: Private regulation of labor standards in global supply chains", 2020

Genevieve LeBaron and Jane Lister: "Ethical audits and the supply chains of global corporations", 2016

Genevieve LeBaron, Jane Lister and Peter Dauvergne: "Governing global supply chain sustainability through the ethical audit regime", 2017

Anne Manschot: "Can a picture say more than a thousand words? Examining the effectiveness of social compliance auditing", 2018

S. Prakash Sethi and Janet L. Rovenpor, Business and Society Review: "The Role of NGOs in Ameliorating Sweatshop-like Conditions in the Global Supply Chain: The Case of Fair Labor Association (FLA) and Social Accountability International (SAI)", 2016 [restricted access]

Alison Smith, Financial Times: "Fortune 500 companies spend more than $15bn on corporate responsibility", 2014

Tara Van Ho and Carolijn Terwindt, European Review of Private Law: "Assessing the duty of care for social auditors", 2019 [restricted access]

Don Wells: "Too weak for the job: Corporate code of conduct, non-governmental organisations and the regulation of international labour standards", 2007 [restricted access]


Mark Anner, Politics & Society: "Corporate Social Responsibility and Freedom of Association Rights: The Precarious Quest for Legitimacy and Control in Global Supply Chains", 2012 [restricted access]

Dennis Arnold: "Better Work or 'ethical fix'? Lessons from Cambodia's apparel industry", 2013

Garrett Brown: "Worker revolt in Myanmar smashes garment factory and apparel brands' false promises of a better life", 2017

Bjorn Claeson, International Labor Rights Forum: "Emerging from the Tragedies in Bangladesh: A Challenge to Voluntarism in the Global Economy", 2015

Clean Clothes Campaign: "Evaluation of H&M compliance with Safety Action Plans for strategic suppliers In Bangladesh", 2015

Clean Clothes Campaign: "Labour on a shoestring", 2016

Clean Clothes Campaign: "Looking for a quick fix: How weak social auditing is keeping workers in sweatshops", 2005

Clean Clothes Campaign and SOMO: "Fatal fashion - Analysis of recent factory fires in Pakistan and Bangladesh: A call to protect and respect garment workers' lives", 2013

Andrew Crane, Vivek Soundararajan, Michael Bloomfield, Laura J. Spence and Genevieve LeBaron: "Decent Work and Economic Growth in the Southern Indian Garment Industry", 2019

Niklas Egels-Zandén and Henrik Lindholm, Journal of Cleaner Production: "Do codes of conduct improve workers rights in supply chains? A study of Fair Wear Foundation", 2015 [restricted access]

Niklas Egels-Zandén and Evelina Wahlqvist, Journal of Business Ethics: "Post-Partnership Strategies for Defining Corporate Responsibility: The Business Social Compliance Initiative", 2007 [restricted access]

International Labor Rights Forum: "Deadly secrets: How apparel brands cover up safety hazards", 2012

Richard Locke, Fei Qin and Alberto Brause: "Does monitoring improve labor standards? Lessons from Nike", 2006

Dara O'Rourke: "Monitoring the monitors: A critique of PWC Labor Monitoring", 2000

SACOM: "Reality behind brands’ CSR hypocrisy: An investigative report on China suppliers of Zara, H&M and GAP", 2016

Mark Starmanns: "The Grand Illusion? Corporate Responsibility in Global Garment Production Networks", 2010

Carolijn Terwindt and Amy Armstrong: "Oversight and Accountability in the Social Auditing Industry – the Role of Social Compliance Initiatives", 2018 [restricted access]

Carolijn Terwindt and Miriam Saage-Maaß: "Liability of Social Auditors In The Textile Industry", 2016

Transparency International Bangladesh: "Undress corruption - How to prevent corruption in the readymade garment sector: Scenarios in Bangladesh", 2016



Sorcha MacLeod and Rebecca DeWinter-Schmitt: "Certifying Private Security Companies: Effectively Ensuring the Corporate Responsibility to Respect Human Rights?", 2019 [restriced access, read-only version available here]