- Humanity United has joined forces with Walmart, Disney and the British government to create Working Capital, a new investment fund targeted at furthering technological innovation working toward freeing supply chains from modern slavery, Reuters reported.
- With $23 million in available funding, including $3.5 million dollars from Britain’s foreign aid department, Working Capital is investing in new technologies such as Provenance, a blockchain system, and Ulula, which aids in identifying supply chain risk.
- Roughly 25 million people are thought to have been trapped in forced labor in 2016, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO) and rights group Walk Free Foundation.
Best efforts aside, slavery continues to plague supply chains.
Though clothing supply chains are among the most common industries rife with human slavery, farm workers too are subject to forced labor demands. Nor is the problem limited to overseas locations; between April and July of 2016, the Department of Labor (DOL) uncovered wage violations at 85% of 77 independent Southern California factories.
Attempts to interrupt the seemingly non-stop flow of illegal labor in supply chains have involved everything from worker hotlines to prosecution of management to undercover investigations by members of human rights groups.
The problem is a stubborn one, at best, thanks to the rewards involved: an unpaid worker saves that much more on the bottom line, or, in worst case scenarios, means more money in a criminally complicit manager's pocket.
Also at issue is the conundrum of corrupt local management, adept at tricking auditors into believing all is well while at the same time disguising unsafe conditions or even hiding child laborers.
Now there is an initiative to use technology to fight slavery that can collect data and provide initial assessments. Because blockchain is only as good as its data input, the big challenge of this new initiative will be making sure data collection methods are reliable, which will be difficult when dealing with corruption.
While it is only one step toward cleaning out corrupt supply chains and liberating enslaved workers, it could be the start of positive change in the industry.