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Transparency Innovations: Open Contracting, Hearing Workers, Radical Transparency

3:10pm  -  4:10pm, Tuesday, May 9, 2017  |  Tower Court C
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How Mobile Workforce Communication is Creating Transparency and Accountability in the Supply Chain
Presenter: Elena Fanjul-Debnam
Factory laborers traditionally don’t have much of a platform to make their voice heard. Their only recourse to report a grievance, violation, or question about business practices has historically been to drop a note in a suggestion box and hope that it gets read by the right people.

Now, brands across the globe are working with the factories they contract to ensure that the workers producing their goods have a voice. Through a mobile communication platform that encompasses SMS Text, Telegram, WeChat, WhatsApp and other major multi-lingual messaging services in uses around the world, real-time reporting has become a reality for hundreds of thousands of previously powerless laborers.

This presentation will explore the issues facing both brands and factories in terms of an evolving regulatory landscape, and best practices involving labor communication standards in the developing world. It will also showcase how mobile-based communication systems can increase communication between laborers, factories, and even brands so that grievances and unfair business practices are reported, realized, and ultimately resolved with unprecedented efficiency.

The potential of these communications systems extends beyond simple grievance management. Using these same channels, it’s now possible and practical to deliver vital information about emergency situations, physical health, or even practical living directly to people who need it. The session will explore how global factories are using this technology, review the results they are seeing, and discuss the business implications of mobile-based laborer communication
moving forward.

Making Transparency Happen
Presenter: Robert Stumberg
In the UN Guiding Principles, due diligence means “to know and to show.” Without transparency, no one is accountable for human rights abuses in the supply chains—not the factory, not the brand, and not a university or government purchaser. Transparency is necessary to remedy lethal working conditions, to block wage theft, and to protect union organizers from being fired and assaulted in dark alleys. Supply-chain transparency laws are becoming popular, perhaps because they are easy to comply with. The California Supply Chain Transparency Act of 2010 and the UK Modern Slavery Act ask only for an Internet posting about company policies. Whether mandated or voluntary, disclosure of policies is rarely accompanied by disclosure of an actual supply chain. The result is faux transparency. To be fair, these laws got the ball rolling. But for most companies, it starts and stops there. Showing internal policies is only the first of three stages of transparency. Stage two is disclosure of supply chain locations. Stage three is disclosure of monitoring and remedies. After all, the desired result is not disclosure of data to maximize “CSR” scores. When institutions balk at becoming transparent, a constructive response is to make transparency happen—as much as possible using public information. For example, the data exists to reveal links of government supply chains, like starting a puzzle with several pieces. The missing pieces are targets of opportunity for journalists or investigators—often with new technologies that enable purchasers to see the factory floor or the deck of a slave trawler. This presentation concludes with examples of making transparency happen in U.S. government supply chains for seafood and apparel.