Social compliance audits and multinational corporation supply chain: evidence from a study of the rituals of social audits

Muhammad Azizul Islam, Craig Deegan, Rob Gray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)
24 Downloads (Pure)


This study investigates the use of social compliance audits in the supply chain of multinational corporations (MNCs). Particularly, we explore the use of such audits in assessing and managing the working conditions of factory workers in the garment industry in a developing nation. Through a range of interviews with MNCs’ internal auditors, with commissioned external auditors and with representatives of the suppliers in Bangladesh, this study finds that social compliance audits become ritual strategies and are not a primary means of advancing workers’ rights. Drawing on the concept of surrogate accountability, the study suggests that to create real change in workers’ conditions and in order to hold MNCs and their suppliers accountable, some form of surrogate (government, non-governmental organisations or media) intervention is necessary. This is, we argue, preferable to leaving it in the hands of ‘markets’ and simply waiting for another major incident such as Rana Plaza to stir public concern. This study contributes to the literature by investigating how social compliance audits are undertaken by MNCs sourcing products from a developing nation, what motivations drive the adoption of such audits, and what, if anything, are the likely outcomes from the process.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)190-224
Number of pages35
JournalAccounting and Business Research
Issue number2
Early online date11 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2018

Bibliographical note


We are pleased to acknowledge the helpful and stimulating responses from the participants at a seminar at Dundee University, the comments and suggestions from the participants at a seminar at the University of St Andrews, the comments from participants at AFAANZ Conference Melbourne, 2012 and AFAANZ Conference Hobart, 2015 as well as those from colleagues at the EMAN/CSEAR Conference in Helsinki, 2012.


  • social compliance audits
  • surrogate accountability
  • supply chain
  • developing nations


Dive into the research topics of 'Social compliance audits and multinational corporation supply chain: evidence from a study of the rituals of social audits'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this