Safeguarding human rights, preserving forests landscapes and protecting biodiversity are some of the critical sustainability issues that sustainability systems were set up to defend. A check list approach to auditing mean these issues can get overlooked, eroding confidence in assurance processes.
One of the main criticisms levelled against sustainability systems with traditional assurance models is that the audit process is poor at detecting high-risk sustainability issues, such as the use of child labour, the protection of land rights, workplace gender discrimination and forced labour. The complexity of these social issues versus the time allocated for audits and the intermittent nature of the audit process explains why some of these issues aren’t always picked up.
Sustainability systems recognise this as a problem, and are strengthening their assurance process to tackle this, including improving their complaints procedures and investing in auditor training. Organisations are also improving how they use data to channel and target audit resources – whether this is on the basis of geography, sector or enterprise size.