The complexity of global supply chains has made it incredibly difficult for businesses to effectively drive sustainable social and environmental change. However, new funding and accessible online resources are making it easier than ever for businesses to overcome these deeply embedded challenges.
The Walmart Foundation has granted the Responsible Business Alliance (RBA) Foundation $1 million to help build a robust and responsible recruitment marketplace for migrant labor in Malaysia and its surrounding nations. Through the investment the Foundation and its supporting program partner, ELEVATE, aim to break the cycle of exploitation in foreign migrant worker recruitment and employment experiences in the region through the promotion of ethical business practices and inclusion of workers in developing solutions.
The complex and fragmented nature of global supply chains makes migrant workers vulnerable to exploitation, which ranges from unpaid overtime to modern-day slavery. Malaysia serves as a major manufacturing hub for many industries and migrant labor constitutes a large portion of the workforce. Third-party labor hiring firms manage these workers, but often, recruiters lack the training and capacity to guide recruitment practices, increasing worker vulnerability.
Over the next 24-months, the RBA Foundation and ELEVATE will work together to implement a solutions-oriented program to detect and address forced labor. The project will include additional upstream work to develop the maturity of labor agents to meet ethical recruitment standards and better educate workers and factory management directly.
The continued evolution of circularity
Hear about the latest progress in advancing a global circular economy from practitioners and experts in a variety of industries — at Sustainable Brands 2020.
Primary drivers that perpetuate conditions of exploitation and forced labor in Malaysia include a lack of adequate education and rigorous, ethical recruitment processes; a lack of worker understanding about their legal protections and rights; and ineffective worker-to-employer communication and feedback loops. These conditions make Malaysia an ideal place to drive meaningful change through the program envisioned and supported by the grant.
“The work of the Responsible Business Alliance Foundation to make a positive, lasting impact in the labor market in Malaysia supports our overarching goal of advancing dignity in work across global supply chains,” said Karrie Denniston, Senior Director at the Walmart Foundation. “We anticipate what the RBA Foundation learns in making responsible recruitment a sustainable and scalable norm in Malaysia will be transferable to other countries and regions that rely on foreign migrant workers.”
Meanwhile, the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) has launched an education and content platform under its sustainability pillar on outdoorindustry.org to support members and outdoor industry companies in advancing their sustainability efforts. The platform provides access to tools and resources created by the OIA Sustainability Working Group (SWG), which has been working for over a decade to address supply chain issues.
The site offers companies on various stages of their sustainability journey in-depth information on a wide-range of issues, from chemicals management to microfibers and the circular economy, in addition to downloadable toolkits to help their brands drive change. Also featured is a climate change section designed to help outdoor industry companies engage in meaningful solutions to the climate crisis, via supply chain impact reduction and local and national advocacy.
The site launch coincided with Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show (OR + SS) in Denver, where the Sustainability Working Group held its latest working meetings and education sessions. These included the first-ever Sustainability Convergence event, which brought together innovators, investors, researchers, academia and other stakeholders to advance the industry — as well as a full day of working sessions and open consulting with SWG advisory council leaders.
“This year’s meetings attracted over 175 SWG members, reflecting the growing engagement throughout the industry on sustainable supply chain management,” said Beth Jensen, Senior Director of Sustainable Business Innovation at OIA. “With climate change central to OIA’s programming at the 2018 OR + SS, we know our business leaders want to be sure they are doing all they can to reduce their supply chain impact, while also advocating for smart climate solutions.”
Finally, Transparency-One, a platform for supply chain visibility and risk management, has expanded its data and analytics to include product transactions, enabling brands and suppliers to simultaneously manage supply chain mapping, compliance, sustainability data and batch and purchase order (PO) traceability information for increased accuracy.
The new capability enables companies to integrate their existing ERP data with Transparency-One’s supply chain mapping platform to increase visibility for their most critical supply chains.
Users can choose their desired level of granularity not just for each supply chain but for each individual component. Companies can track specific batches or POs for their most critical components or ingredients, while managing other suppliers at a component level. This approach makes it possible to onboard the entire supply chain, without requiring suppliers of less critical raw materials to share batch or PO-level information.
The ability to combine transactional data with supply chain mapping enables business to do more with their existing data. By incorporating ERP data into Transparency-One's supply chain mapping platform, users can dive deep into a single batch or PO as well as gain a broader view of their global supply chains, for a full range of control. Additionally, the new capabilities allow users to:
- Achieve more efficient recalls and proactive management;
- Analyze critical raw material impact and supplier compliance;
- Anticipate potential issues with big data; and
- Communicate verified information to consumers.
By leveraging all information available, whether batches, POs, or supply chain mapping, companies can reduce the impact of a crisis, respond more efficiently, and manage risk proactively.
All information entered in the Transparency-One platform can be added to the blockchain to create an immutable record of supply chain data, via a partnership with Microsoft. Batch lot and PO information can also be added to the blockchain for additional data security. Once added, it is permanently recorded and cannot be modified or deleted. Any additional interactions involving this lot or PO are added as additional transactions in the blockchain, which in turn become immutable.
In addition to the batch transaction functionalities, Transparency-One has also implemented new tools that allow stakeholders across the supply chain to ensure regulatory compliance. All supply chain partners from raw material suppliers to brand owners, can use the platform to:
- Manage and monitor critical supply chain data: Track social, safety, and sustainability information in a centralized database and define necessary documentation to ensure compliance with regulatory, market, and customer requirements.
- Gather business-specific data: Send custom surveys to suppliers to collect additional data on environmental practices, anti-modern slavery measures, etc.
- Assess supply chains at a glance or dive deep for in-depth analysis: View map visualizations of complete supply chains and explore detailed dashboards on supply chain mapping progress, compliance, modern slavery risk, and more.
- Create custom dashboards: Customize business intelligence dashboards to analyze supply chains within a business-specific framework, such as tracking progress towards sustainability goals.