Ali Enterprises Fire in Karachi, Pakistan

Response to ILRF, CCC, WRC, MSN, NTUF joint press release, “Factory certification body fails to assist victims of Karachi factory fire”

October 15, 2012

Social Accountability International’s (SAI) mission is to promote workers' rights in a world often indifferent to them. All of us at SAI remain horrified and deeply saddened by the fire that took place at Ali Enterprises in Karachi, Pakistan, on September 11, 2012. Nearly 300 workers died and many were injured. The fate these workers met contrasts sharply with the improvement in workers’ lives that SAI stands for: Human Rights at Work. SAI has worked hard for more than fifteen years to assure these rights, and will continue to do so. 

The fire and its casualties at Ali Enterprises in Pakistan stand in stark contrast to the intention of the SA8000® Standard and everything that SAI is trying to achieve. Auditing and certification to SAI’s SA8000® Standard are just part of SAI’s broadly based program, which includes capacity-building, training, and responsible purchasing. The majority of SAI’s work focuses on capacity-building and training at both producers and buyers, with the clear aim of promoting workers’ rights and improving working conditions. In the extraordinary and catastrophic circumstances surrounding this fire, SAI directly asked all our brand and retail members whether or not they were sourcing from Ali Enterprises. All SAI brand and retail members have assured us that they were not in a buyer-supplier relationship with Ali Enterprises.

SAI continues to believe that independent trade unions and strong, enforced, national labor legislation are the best means to achieve decent work. Too often, however, workers do not enjoy these benefits. The collective approach of all stakeholders – workers, trade unions, factory managers, NGOs, government and brands – continues to be desperately needed to improve working conditions in global supply chains.

Responding to inquiries, we wish to clarify that the SA8000® Standard does not include any requirement to disclose the names of buyers. Audit reports of the certification bodies are not required to include or verify the names of customers of the factory. SAI has not been able, to date, to confirm any current or recent customers of Ali Enterprises other than the already publicly disclosed company KiK.

We understand that it is extremely difficult to identify every subcontract in complex supply chains that can encompass 100,000 producers. The difficulty is compounded if a producer hides such information or makes a false claim based either on nothing at all or on a very old order. Therefore, in cases where SAI could identify special risk of possible sourcing at Ali Enterprises (e.g. denim production in Pakistan), we have followed up with further questions to the members. 

Also in response to inquiries, we wish to underline that the confidentiality of audit reports benefits workers. Workers that speak out during audits, as well as other stakeholders with information about working conditions that could benefit workers, must be able to share that information freely, confidentially, and without fear of retribution.

For three days, Oct. 9-11, SAI’s multi-stakeholder Advisory Board (which includes trade unions and NGOs) convened to focus on the Ali Enterprises fire and its implications for the SA8000 system, with three specific goals: 1) shared understanding and fact finding; 2) identification of new ways to improve our work, tools and systems; and 3) action items to take forward.  

At the meeting, SAI committed to strengthen its fire safety capacity-building approach by developing and implementing additional occupational safety and health programs. In addition, SAI will work with SAAS to assure an increase in the number of spot checks and unannounced audits and to strengthen stakeholder consultation.

A thorough investigation on the ground in Pakistan and at headquarters of SAAS and RINA continues to take place independent of the government’s investigation. The scope of this investigation is not only for the Ali Enterprises factory, but also includes a review of all SA8000 certifications in Pakistan.   

We believe the work of SAI contributes toward the goal of decent work for all, but it will take increased collaboration among all those concerned to achieve lasting improvements in working conditions and to reduce the risk of such terrible events such as the fire at Ali Enterprises.