Under the title “Bribes, fake factories and forged documents”, the South China Morning Post from Hong Kong reported in detail in mid-January 2021 on allegations of corruption in connection with the execution of social audits in Chinese factories and companies.
In this context, discrepancies relating to a factory facility in the Chinese Zhejiang province are also mentioned. The team of authors describes that TÜV Rheinland had conducted an audit at the factory according to the Sedex standard and that the factory had been rated “C”. However, a random inspection had then revealed forced labor, with the owners withholding part of the workers’ wages each month and promising to pay the rest later. The report goes on to say that the factory received SA8000 certification from TÜV Rheinland. Furthermore, the authors state that TÜV Rheinland did not issue a statement in response to inquiries.
This is not true. The authors of the cited article requested a statement in December 2020. We immediately informed the authors that we were very interested in clarifying any irregularities. However, it was (and is) not possible for us to clarify the facts more precisely internally based on the above-mentioned rudimentary information. We had therefore asked for further details; however, the journalists again refused to do so, which we naturally respect. Internal checks have once again shown that TÜV Rheinland cannot assign the case cited to its own activities, neither with regard to Sedex audits nor SA8000 certifications. Sedex generally does not give ratings like the “C” mentioned, so this cannot be accurate, for example. It must be a misunderstanding.
TÜV Rheinland also states the following:
We have been auditing social standards in production and industry in various countries worldwide since 2002. TÜV Rheinland is one of the world’s leading auditing organizations in this field and regularly audits several thousand companies. The aim of the audits is to ensure fundamental social standards in the global supply chain in the production of goods and to monitor compliance with them. Recognized standards we audit to include, for example, the SA 8000 standard of the Social Accountability International (USA), the standard of the Amfori Business Social Compliance Initiative (Amfori BSCI) and Sedex Members’ Ethical Trade Audits (SMETA). Comparable standards have also been established in individual industries, and TÜV Rheinland is also approved to audit these.
At the same time, we attach great importance to the quality of the audits performed and the adherence to all compliance rules. TÜV Rheinland consistently follows up on any indications of irregularities during audits. Furthermore, we maintain a regular and close exchange with all market partners in this regard and respond to all inquiries from the media and other stakeholders about our activities in this area, as would have been the case in the aforementioned case if TÜV Rheinland had been given the opportunity to do so. This is in line with our principle of providing the most transparent and accurate information possible about our activities and exercising our responsibility in connection with our testing activities.