Altana: The Impact of AI and Data Analytics on Forced Labor Prevention

Dan Viederman, Rebecca Wong
March 11, 2024

At Working Capital Fund, we invest in emerging technologies that can be applied to catalyze more equitable, transparent, and sustainable supply chains. Technology unlocks impact at scale. One of the best examples of our work is the investment we made in Altana.  

Investment Thesis Alignment 

In 2018, we made the strategic decision to invest in Altana, then an early-stage company positioned at the intersection of supply chain risk analysis and emerging data analytics technology. Our investment thesis was rooted in the recognition of an unmet need for scalable supply chain mapping and risk assessment, coupled with the promise of leveraging cutting-edge technology to address the challenge. We, and others in the space, have grappled for years with the problem of finding and remedying forced labor on a workplace-by-workplace basis – a pace of change that will never make a dent in the overall incidence (even if of course it helps individuals). 

We foresaw that by attaching forced labor risk data to Altana’s other public and proprietary data sources, utilizing their sophisticated technological capability, we could create insights into the supply chain that had been unavailable. We anticipated that regulation would increasingly require supply chain transparency, particularly when it came to forced labor, and that the Altana solution would be well-positioned within an expanding market. We further believed that when companies were faced with high-quality information about risk in their supply chains they would take action. . 

The company’s progress since 2018 has validated our initial thesis about the opportunity at the intersection of scaled data, analytic technology, and the market. 

  1. Scale and Breadth

Altana currently provides a picture of supply chains that is built from three billion data points about global shipments, captures information about 470 million companies, and incorporates over 120M supply chain links. One can query its Atlas to understand exposure to concerns as varied as forced labor in Xinjiang, fentanyl trafficking from China, and prohibited steel or timber from Russia. Businesses that use the Atlas testify to its unprecedented value as they grapple with multi-faceted risks in massively complicated supply chains. Altana’s system can provide granular, supplier-specific risk data in a graph that captures substantial parts of the supply chain.

  1. Technology and Innovation 

Altana uses AI to standardize raw supply chain data and render it intelligible. As Co-Founder and CEO Evan Smith recently told Fox Business,

AI is only as powerful as the data it was trained on, and over the last five years what we’ve built is the world’s largest body of organized supply chain information.

Altana organizes its various data sources into a federated model, without compromising the confidentiality of any users’ proprietary information. This ensures each customer’s supply chain map is interoperable with those of other Atlas users, enabling them to collaborate around a ‘shared source of truth.’ Newer AI approaches built on Large Language Models allow clients to interact with these data using natural language. This means, says Smith, “through a natural language interface, you don’t have to build all the software to answer every possible question or workflow” that a user may require.

  1. Shaping the Supply Chain Intelligence Market

Altana has both benefited from and helped shape the growing market for supply chain intelligence. Since its founding, the startup has seen an explosion of regulations pertaining to supply chain sustainability. Chief among these is the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA) in the United States. The UFLPA aims to combat the use of forced labor in Xinjiang, China, by prohibiting the importation of goods made under such conditions and holding accountable those involved in human rights abuses targeting the Uyghur Muslim minority. 

Altana works with three essential stakeholders – brands, regulators, and logistics providers – to build shared visibility and collaboration. The company provides data about production networks that enable individual brands to comply with the UFLPA. The US Customs and Border Protection Agency – tasked with enforcing the UFLPA – uses Altana’s Atlas as the “foundational map of the global supply chain,” while the UK Department of Business and Trade uses Altana’s Atlas as within the Global Supply Chains Intelligence Program. And logistics firms like Maersk can promise to use Atlas to promise supply chain visibility and the avoidance of forced labor through the transport and logistics processes. 


Most importantly from our perspective, all these developments lead to impact on a large scale. Altana’s impact has three dimensions. First, Altana enables companies and regulators to see and manage value chains, providing the visibility that enables compliance with the law. Second, the company enables clients to make better procurement decisions by affirmatively choosing less risky suppliers, and where possible driving remedial support to those whose performance is below standard. Third, Altana facilitates collective action, enabling users to align around a ‘shared source of truth,’ changing incentives and market signals for brands and suppliers. 

In the company’s vision, Globalization 2.0 will be characterized by ‘trusted networks, which span and connect nation-states, businesses, and civil society in resilient, secure, sustainable, and inclusive global business networks.’ We would call this ‘systems change,’ and it is the result of the marriage of this great and growing company and a vision of how to use big data to solve forced labor. 


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