Technology for Good: Innovative Tools for Protecting Human Rights in Global Supply Chains

QIMA Supply Chain Conference 2019 - Session 2: Ethical and Sustainable Sourcing: Progress and Challenges

Silvia Mera, Program Director, The Mekong Club
Elena Fanjul-Debnam, VP of Labor Solutions, Workplace Options
Joyce Chau, Director Asia Pacific, amfori

Moderator: Colby Jones, QIMA

“A lot of the time we try to use technology as the solution, rather than a tool to achieve a solution; the human element is really important, especially when we talk about human rights”
The day ended by touching on technology again, this time by discussing its role in protecting human rights in the global supply chain. It was a very lively discussion among amfori, the Mekong Club and Workplace Options. The conversation touched on smaller companies that have less of a microscope on them when it comes to human rights issues. Similar to the points brought up in the previous panel, implementing technology is only half of the battle. This is increasingly so when it comes to tools used to protect workers. Making sure workers are aware of why the technology is being implemented and how the data will be used can build trust and promote proper implementation.

Key takeaways:

  • How can SMEs reap the benefits of technology to improve their supply chains?
    • While SMEs may not have big brands’ resources, it is within the power of any company to educate its staff on the state of human rights in global supply chains
    • The digital transformation also offers increased financing options to SMEs that would otherwise have no access to credit
  • Empowering workers with safe and anonymous communication channels:
    • Mobile technologies provide a valuable channel for workers to report their grievances and human rights issues, both internally (to human resources) and externally (to third-party compliance providers)
    • Practical implementation experience shows that the ability to report grievances anonymously is key for getting the real picture
  • Technology for human rights in action:
    • Blockchain traceability solutions are not limited to products: a recently implemented blockchain solution is geared towards migrant workers, keeping track of their documents and records. A paper trail is instrumental for safeguarding the workers’ rights and safety
    • Balancing transparency and privacy: questions of privacy and consent must be raised in relation to collecting, storing and processing worker data; these discussions must involve all actors of the supply chain
    • Not the final solution, but a useful tool: 94% of auditors surveyed said that technological tools allowed them to be more effective in worker interviews and collecting information about the state of human rights, from faster processing and tackling language barriers to ensuring internal consistency of collected data and analyzing it