Q & A: Ali Enterprises Fire in Karachi, Pakistan

Updated: December 7, 2012
Initial Release: September 20, 2012

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Social Accountability International’s (SAI) mission is to promote workers’ rights in a world often indifferent to them. All of us at SAI and at Social Accountability Accreditation Services (SAAS) are horrified by the fire at Ali Enterprises in Karachi, Pakistan, on September 11, in which nearly 300 workers died and many more were injured. On the day following the fire SAAS was informed by RINA, a global certification body based in Genova, Italy, that RINA had issued an SA8000 certification to the Ali Enterprises factory on August 20, 2012. 

SAAS, the accreditation agency that oversees the certification aspects of the SA8000 system, immediately began an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the certification. We expect a full report to be issued in early 2013. In the interim, both SAI and SAAS have been working to take action to improve the overall SA8000 system; these specific actions are detailed in the questions and answers below.  

Many media reports in the days and weeks following the fire contained inconsistent factual information. After the fire, SAI issued a ‘Question & Answer’ (Q & A) document on September 20 to help sort through the inevitable confusion based on verified information. As our investigation is ongoing, we have updated this Q & A document to provide more detail and information to the extent that we know them at this time.

SAI Questions & Answers: Ali Enterprises Fire in Karachi, Pakistan
[Download PDF - 238KB]

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Questions:

1. What is the name of certification body (CB) that issued the SA8000 certificate?

2.  How was this SA8000 certificate granted? What was the process?

3. What are some of the actions that SAI has taken, or expects to take, in response to this fire?

4. What actions have been taken in Pakistan?

5. What is the status of the investigation of the Ali Enterprises fire and of RINA’s performance?  What findings and conclusions, if any, have you reached?

6. Doesn’t this tragedy demonstrate the inadequacy of the social auditing model?

7. What about the role of trade unions and government to ensure decent work?

8. What are you doing to strengthen the SA8000 system?

9. The New York Times stated on September 20 that SAI is “heavily financed by industry…” What are SAI’s sources of income?

10. What is being done to ensure adequate oversight over SAAS accredited certification bodies?

11. Do SAI and/or SAAS do any systematic monitoring and quality control of the certification bodies after they receive accreditation to do SA8000 audits? 

12. Did SAI or SAAS know about the large number of certifications that RINA issued in Pakistan? Did this raise any red flags for you?

13. What is the relationship between RINA and RI&CA?

14. Did SAAS ever receive evidence prior to the tragedy at Ali Enterprises to suggest that SA8000 audits were not carried out in accordance with procedures?

15. Are SAI and/or SAAS aware of the Pakistani government’s subsidy system for social certification? Did this raise any concerns before the fire at Ali Enterprises?

16. What is the process of de-certifying a factory of its SA8000 status and how frequently does that occur?

17. Why hasn’t the audit been released publicly?

18. What companies were sourcing apparel from the Ali Enterprises factory?

19. The New York Times reported September 20 that the auditors who conducted the on-site audit of Ali Enterprises were “working on behalf of Social Accountability International.”  Is this accurate?

20. How can audits be effective if they are announced beforehand? What kind of audit did RINA do of Ali Enterprises?

21. What is the difference between auditing and monitoring?

22. How does the SA8000 system bring about positive change for workers?