Working Paper | HBS Working Paper Series | 2014

Monitoring the Monitors: How Social Factors Influence Supply Chain Auditors

by Jodi L Short, Michael W. Toffel and Andrea R. Hugill

Abstract

Supply chain auditors provide companies with strategic information about the practices of suppliers, yet little is known of what influences auditors' ability to identify and report dangerous, illegal, and unethical behavior at factories. Drawing on insights from the literatures on street-level bureaucracy and on regulatory and audit design, we theorize and investigate the factors that shape the practices of private supply chain auditors. We find evidence that their reporting practices are shaped by an array of social factors, including an auditor's experience, gender, and professional training; ongoing relationships between auditors and audited factories; and gender diversity on audit teams. By providing the first comprehensive and systematic findings on supply chain auditing practices, our study suggests strategies for designing more credible monitoring regimes.

Keywords: industry self-regulation; auditing; Codes of conduct; supply chains; corporate social responsibility; globalization; Accounting Audits; Developing Countries and Economies; Supply Chain; Operations; Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Safety; Social Issues; Social Enterprise; Labor; Working Conditions; Law Enforcement; Globalization; Corporate Accountability; Fashion Industry; Forest Products Industry; Manufacturing Industry;

Citation:

Short, Jodi L., Michael W. Toffel, and Andrea R. Hugill. "Monitoring the Monitors: How Social Factors Influence Supply Chain Auditors." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 14-032, October 2013. (Revised February 2014. Previously titled "What Shapes the Gatekeepers? Evidence from Global Supply Chain Auditors.")