Detecting modern slavery in the supply chain
From an article on Business Fights Poverty
Recruitment-fee debt bondage is the most widespread expression of modern slavery. In many parts of the world, it is common for the costs of recruitment to be borne by the workers themselves. Other costs – for example, travel, visas and medical expenses – compound the problem. Workers go into debt to pay these up-front fees and costs, then find they can pay only the interest on the debt from their wages, with the debt tying them permanently to a role over which they have no control.
Modern slavery is therefore often invisible, hidden in factories, small farms, plantations, or single-operator boats supplying seafood. A consumer goods company may be many tiers away from workers in these settings. This makes modern slavery very challenging to detect – and even harder to eradicate – in these and other parts of global supply chains
Two apps are emerging to help detect issues.
Diginex is a global blockchain solutions provider tackling issues that require considerable collaboration to deliver social impact. It is working with the International Organization for Migration and The Mekong Club on ethical recruitment of migrant workers, developing the eMin tool to ensure the transparency of workers’ contracts.
Blockchain applications work best when they are used to answer the question: “Is the data you’re looking at the same as the data I’m looking at?” They ensure there is no manipulation in the transfer of data, creating transparency and resolving problems of fraud or other forms of abuse based on unauthorised changes in data.
Such precision is crucial for migrant workers, who often sign a contract in their country of origin but may then find that contract has been changed by the time they arrive in a new, unfamiliar destination and begin work there. Diginex’s approach enables an immutable copy of employment contracts and related data to be stored with the highest level of security on the Ethereum blockchain. Workers have access to their own contracts and gives workers a robust basis for claiming the rights and benefits they were originally offered at the time of recruitment.
The eMin tool has been successfully piloted since February 2019 at a shrimp farm in Phuket, Thailand, in partnership with Verifik8, a data intelligence and analytics provider for agribusiness suppliers. Following the pilot, Verifik8 will integrate eMin into its existing farming monitoring tools, called Blue 8/Green 8, which are already being used by 5,000 workers on farms in Thailand. Further expansion is planned into different sectors in Southeast Asia, Bangladesh and Bahrain.
The auditing community is interested in these approaches, with plans to trial a system with auditors early in 2020. This would, for example, enable auditors to investigate whether all the terms and benefits promised in a contract are being implemented in practice.
The Mekong Club has also been applying another kind of technology to help strengthen worker voice within social audit processes. Working with the United Nations University Institute in Macau, the organisation has sought to apply mobile technology to overcome weaknesses in the traditional approach to interviewing workers for social audits. Apprise Audit is a mobile app for auditors which offers a standard set of questions available in audio in multiple languages – which allows for a more inclusive selection process – with workers’ responses captured on the auditor’s phone screen. It offers the auditor a real-time summary during the audit.
Apprise Audit has been tested by four major corporations in their supply chains for five months. A recent evaluation showed that the app enhances workers’ voice, in part through enabling greater confidentiality of responses (through the use of headphones), with the gamification of the on-screen response process putting workers, and particularly women and migrant workers, more at ease in giving feedback on their working conditions, compared with when talking directly to an auditor. The app enables efficient and consistent data collection and retention and supports analysis of factories’ working conditions over time.
Watch this 5 minute video on Apprise which also gives insights into modern slavery:
Lack of transparency in systems contributes to modern slavery and makes it difficult to root out. These apps are strong examples of the application of technology to tackling modern slavery. However, further work is needed to deploy these solutions at scale in complex, interconnected global supply chains.
Read the full article here.
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