Environmental health and safety/social responsibility audits are the principal tool used to assess compliance with regulatory requirements and brand policy in the supply chain. Coupling this approach with developing and implementing a corrective action plan post- audit is used extensively to promote supplier adherence to brand programs. 

This two-pronged approach has not met with consistent, long-term success—especially in the developing world.  Audits do not always provide an accurate compliance picture owing to intentional supplier misrepresentation and/or lack of auditor technical expertise.  Implementing corrective action plans may take many months, or years, depending on complexity and costs.  Few brands have the resources or stamina to monitor their supplier’s corrective action implementations when it comes to long-term, complex EHS programmatic or infrastructure projects.

A sustainable strategy must incorporate capacity-building as a foundational element.  Capacity-building consists of: 1) training to build knowledge and skills on technical issues, enterprise management, community relations and other issues; 2)  implementing management systems to achieve sustainable performance objectives and reduce public health and environmental risks; 3) advancing capabilities to utilize cleaner and more efficient technologies; 4) applying best practices to improve sustainability performance across the supply chain; and 5) building partnerships with the public and private sectors, non-governmental organizations and the university community.

Capacity-building requires competent, knowledgeable personnel to reside within the supply chain to ensure valid audits are performed and corrective actions are executed properly and on a timely basis.  But there is a dearth of such individuals in developing nations.  What can be done?

The Occupational Hygiene Training Association (OHTA) was formed to promote better standards of occupational hygiene practice throughout the world. The OHTA develops training materials and makes them freely available for use by students and training providers.  It promotes an international qualifications framework so all hygienists are trained to a consistent, high standard, recognized in all participating countries.