“I found that buyers’ squeeze down on price, their obsession with speed to market, and the dramatic fluctuations in order volumes to directly contribute to below-subsistence wages, forced overtime, union avoidance, and extreme, sometimes violent pressure on workers to meet unrealistic production targets,” he told me over the phone.

Anner noted that instead of audits, workers need transparent, binding monitoring accords between brands and unions. Under such agreements, he said, “if brands fail to meet their obligations there should be mechanisms in place for workers to hold the brands to account.”

Four former SAI employees whom I contacted in the process of reporting this story said they left the organization precisely for this reason: The certification system, thanks to its corporate-driven structure and its lack of transparency and worker involvement, benefits businesses more than workers.

Far away in South India, Kishore reached a similar conclusion. After his stint at RINA came to an end in 2010, he started his own legal advisory practice, which he still runs today. He advises companies throughout South India on personnel management and signs off all his e-mails with his business motto, “It is better to prepare and prevent than to repair and repent!!,” which, he said, was inspired by his time at RINA.

SAI declined to comment on Kishore’s account or on his allegations about the consultants, but insisted its certification is the best-equipped to minimize the “brand pressure, cheating, and corruption that is seen in the social auditing industry today.”

Many of Kishore’s former managers stayed on in the industry: Ramakrishnan and Ayyasamy, for example, have both joined SAI’s competitor WRAP, which was created by an American trade group and remains popular with US brands. RINA continues to conduct audits for SA8000, WRAP, and other several certification protocols.

Faizall, who continues to help clients across India obtain such certificates, does not believe brands will ever pay suppliers enough to fulfill the supposedly ethical demands of these standards. When I asked him how, given these structural limits, he views the role of auditing companies, NGOs, and consultants like himself who run and operate in the system, his answer was straightforward.

“It’s all about business,” he said, “No one is here to do service.”