Leveraging Technology to Fight Modern Slavery in Supply Chains

QIMA Sustainability Conference 2018 - Session 1: Critical human rights issues in global supply chains: modern slavery, human trafficking, gender inequality

Presented by Dr. Zoe Fortune, The Mekong Club
Research Director

The Mekong Club is an NGO that aims to harness the skills of the private sector to combat human trafficking. Dr. Zoe Fortune outlined the main advantages and opportunities offered by modern digital technologies in the ongoing fight against modern slavery, highlighting the numerous tools that brands can use to investigate their supply chains.

Highlights:

  • The meanings and scale of modern slavery today
  • Technology as the greatest asset in fighting modern slavery
  • Digital tools available for brands to help address human rights risks in their sourcing, including aggregated databases, mobile apps and risk mapping instruments

Leveraging Technology to Fight Modern Slavery in Supply Chains

Today, modern slavery remains a critical human rights issue, and its scale is staggering, with 40.3 people being enslaved on any given day in 2016. The current definition of modern slavery encompasses forced labor and forced marriage. Forced labor, in turn, includes labor exploitation, sexual exploitation and state-imposed forced labor. The highest prevalence of labor exploitation is found in Asia, while the most vulnerable sectors are domestic work, construction, and manufacturing. To keep people trapped in slavery, perpetrators use a number of methods, the most common of which are debt bondage, withholding of pay, isolation and threats. (For a detailed summary of the facts of modern slavery, see this QIMA Infographic.)


Technology: the greatest asset in fighting modern slavery

Modern technology offers a number of previously unavailable tools that transform the way we think about information and connection. In the fight against modern slavery, technology offers such notable advantages as instant access to vast volumes of data (including via Google resources and maps), the ability to visualize data for faster interpretation, multiple ways to connect to people, ways to access hidden populations, and more.

Importantly, technology allows for better use of existing data, through aggregation in databases, harmonization, and collaboration between different members of the private, NGO and government sectors. Meanwhile, some of the more innovative solutions, like the block chain technology, can greatly contribute to traceability and data integrity.

The Mekong Club works with the private sector and develops tools to support organizations who work to tackle the issue of modern slavery. Their focus is on identifying, remediating and preventing instances of modern slavery, as well as facilitating the sharing of learning and collaboration.


Digital tools the Mekong Club offers to brands that want to address human resource risks in their sourcing

  • Awareness tools: succinct multimedia content providing information on various issues related to modern slavery.
  • Knowledge hub: an easily searchable database of information resources on relevant issues
  • Risk assessment tools: information about modern slavery risks organized by country and product type, aggregated from the sources of the Global Slavery Index, the Trafficking in Persons Report, and the Government Response Indicator
  • Victim identification apps: made available to workers in their native language to provide a safe reporting channel for any concerns, with anonymity to protect vulnerable individuals
  • Interactive flowcharts: providing practical advice and legal guides for different scenarios that arise during investigation and remediation of modern slavery risks

Conclusion

Key methods for fully harnessing the power of technology the fight against modern slavery:

  • Better utilization of existing data
  • Collaboration and aggregation of resources
  • Use of mobile phone technologies for additional data collection and reporting
  • Mapping and visualization
  • Creative use of newest technologies (e.g. block chain)
 
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