Solution to Auditing Factories During Unstoppable Lockdown: Remote Audit

Background
The world as we know it has changed dramatically since 2020. Lots of countries experienced cycles of lockdown and relaxation; international and domestic travels are restricted; millions of people shifted to work from home. Over 15 months have passed since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, and people urge life to return to normalcy as soon as possible. Yet, the future is still filled with complex uncertainties.

Though numerous restrictions, the global production chain still needs to operate; legal requirements continue to apply to factories; brands, buyers and trading companies still need to ensure their supply chains are ethical. Under the “new normal”, physical onsite audits are hampered by the restriction on local travel or “no visitor” policy of manufacturing sites while remote audit emerges as an inevitable solution at that time despite some of its limitations.

What is Remote Audit
A remote audit is conducted when an auditor is not physically inside an audit site, but sitting somewhere else on this planet observing the audit site by using information and communication technology (ICT) tools. Same as physical onsite audits, remote audits also cover document and record reviews, site tours, management interviews and worker interviews. However, there are several challenges. For example, checkpoints requiring the handling of sensitive evidence can hardly be verified; individual worker interviews can only be arranged when stringent privacy and confidentiality requirements are met to prove the interviewee has not interfered.

How to Arrange and Perform a Remote Audit
The arrangement of a remote audit is similar to that of a physical onsite audit, with the addition that SGS team will also check beforehand to ensure the audit site is equipped with a stable wireless internet connection and appropriate ICT tool – “SGS QiiQ” is the one specifically developed for remote use.

While remote facility tours and interviews are conducted via live video, document and record reviews can be done in 2 ways – audit sites can either scan and email the documents and records to auditors prior to a scheduled audit, or show the documents via screen sharing or in front of the camera during the audit.

There is no doubt that physical onsite audits are preferable. Yet, as the pandemic situation remains and with no signs that the world will return to its status quo. As an alternative, remote audits have shown that they are effective in assisting clients to continue to source and buy ethically.

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