Yesterday, the Partnership for Freedom announced the winners of Rethink Supply Chains: The Tech Challenge to Fight Labor Trafficking, a competition seeking technological solutions that help fight modern-day slavery in global supply chains. Earlier this year, five finalists were announced; each was awarded $20,000 and participated in a Finalist Accelerator program to help them refine and develop their ideas.
“The presence of forced labor in corporate supply chains is a systemic problem that has been difficult to address,” said Catherine Chen, director of investments of Humanity United, which coordinates the Partnership for Freedom. “It is our hope that these technologies will give businesses, workers, and governments helpful tools for greater transparency and visibility.”
Certain industries are more at-risk than others, such as seafood, palm oil, and clothing. In the seafood industry, the prominence of forced labor has resulted in numerous reports and investigations, a major Greenpeace campaign, and (finally) responses from retailers such as Tesco and Waitrose. The Rethink Supply Chains grand prize winner seeks to tackle this massive problem.
The Labor Safe Digital Certificate is a digital risk assessment tool that is expected to help seafood suppliers and major retailers better screen for risks of forced labor and address high-risk zones within their supply chains. The tool is the result of a collaborative effort from Sustainability Incubator, an advisory firm that helps seafood companies advance sustainability and solve human rights challenges, and Trace Register, a traceability software company, who will receive $250,000 grant to support the Certificate’s development.
“The challenge has validated our efforts to rethink the opportunities for traceability to help combat modern slavery in seafood supply chains,” said Katrina Nakamura of Sustainability Incubator. “We now have the resources needed to develop the technology to combine product tracking and slavery risk identification.”
“Trace Register’s software uses an online survey to assess sustainability and quality control by asking suppliers questions such as the proportion of migrant workers in their supply chains, the duration of trips for vessels, recruiting practices and ports of call,” The Wall Street Journal explained. “The software can cross-check the answers with research, including information from non-profit organizations and public data from government authorities, to flag potential parts in the supply chain that should be investigated further.”
Good World Solutions was named the runner-up winner and will receive a $50,000 grant to advance their LaborLink mobile technology for improving visibility of trafficked workers by capturing and analyzing worker feedback.
“The Rethink Supply Chains competition has catalyzed our LaborLink team around the issue of trafficking and offered invaluable insights on how to adapt our tools to help companies surface risk of forced labor within their supply chains,” said Heather Franzese, co-founder and Executive Director of Good World Solutions. “Funding from the challenge will enable us to launch a dedicated survey and new community-based methodology to survey workers.”
Rethink Supply Chains was the second of three Innovation Challenges from the Partnership for Freedom. The third Challenge will launch later this year and will focus on changing attitudes, policies, and processes to ensure that survivors of trafficking are treated with the dignity they deserve.