Tech-based Guidelines to Identify and Address Worker Exploitation in Global Supply Chains Unveiled
Good World Solutions, a DIV portfolio organization, uses mobile technology to ask workers survey questions about labor rights, workplace benefits and community resources through an anonymous two-way communication channel between factory workers and supply chain leaders known as LaborLink. They authored the blog below to discuss a new set of guidelines for technology-driven efforts to engage workers in global supply chains, the WEST Principles, which was introduced at the Innovation Forum in Washington, DC June 26, 2017.
WEST Principles to shape the future of how technology is designed and used to benefit workers
Over the last 6 years, the emergence of new worker engagement technologies has sparked industry wide discussions about the value of connecting with workers in a new way, and how data about their opinions and experiences can be leveraged to improve working conditions. Today, the idea of scalable, technology-supported worker engagement has passed the proof of concept stage and there is a proliferation of new technologies, approaches, and providers.
What happens next could go one of two ways:
A splintered future: Efforts by individual companies and providers will go in different directions, not unlike the trajectory of auditing, where an abundance of codes and standards has led to inefficiency and interfered with real, measurable change for workers – despite major investment of time and resources.
Or a collaborative approach: Industry leaders will unify discussions around technology-supported worker engagement and agree to a set of fundamental principles and best practices for maximizing the impact and scale of worker-centric technologies.
On June 26, 2017, the Worker Engagement Supported by Technology (WEST) Principles
, a set of guidelines for technology-driven efforts to engage workers in global supply chains, were unveiled at the Innovation Forum
in Washington, D.C. These guidelines, developed by technology providers working to enable businesses to address labor exploitation in their supply chains, were developed to respond to worker exploitation, abuse, and forced labor.
Emerging technologies create an opportunity to engage workers in global supply chains and identify and address risks of abuse and exploitation, particularly amongst vulnerable populations. From mobile phones to social networks, technology can amplify workers’ voices by connecting them directly with brands, manufacturers, employers, and NGOs. The WEST Principles offer guidance in how to design and implement technological solutions that identify and address worker abuse and exploitation.
“As technology continues to flourish in emerging markets, engaging with workers is no longer limited to a dozen in-person interviews,” said Beth Holzman, Acting Executive Director, Laborlink by Good World Solutions
, one of the organizations that authored the principles. “Today, we have the capability to connect with thousands of workers using technology that is easily accessible or already in the hands of workers, such as a mobile applications, anonymous helplines, and even social media.”
By developing a shared vision for solutions that are worker-centered, the WEST Principles are an opportunity for multiple stakeholders to realize the potential of technology to tackle large-scale, yet hard to detect exploitation in global supply chains such as forced labor. Without a shared vision and coordination, individual technological efforts to improve workers’ well-being can be siloed, redundant, and inefficient. This fragmented trajectory can result in minimal changes for worker treatment despite major investment of time and resources.
“By collaboratively creating a common point of reference for companies, employers, factories, and NGOs, we believe these principles have the potential to fundamentally shape how technology is used to improve workers' lives,” said Dan Viederman, Managing Director at Humanity United.
Convened by Humanity United
and Laborlink by Good World Solutions, the authors of the WEST Principles also include GeoPoll
, and Workplace Options
. There are eight principles that apply to stakeholders at every level of the supply chain, and the areas of focus include building trust with workers, managing security and risk, fostering knowledge sharing, and worker-centric design. Moving forward, the co-authors of the principles will continue to engage all stakeholders at all levels of the supply chain to collectively develop a roadmap to operationalize their use. This will include engagement with brands, retailers, suppliers, employers, NGOs, assessment firms, technology providers, worker representation groups and workers themselves.
The WEST Principles are now found at www.westprinciples.org
. Organizations from all stakeholder groups are invited to endorse the principles and affirm their commitment to improving the way technology-driven efforts are designed and implemented to improve workers' lives.
In the upcoming months, the WEST Principles will be hosting a Stakeholder Engagement Series that will facilitate multi-stakeholder discussion around the four phases of the principles: Design, Engage, Analyze, and Utilize Data. Sign-up to receive event details and updates from the WEST Principles