Humanity United launches Working Capital, a $23 million venture fund to invest in ethical supply chain innovations
Leading brands address demand for better working conditions, more transparent supply chains
January 30, 2018 (San Francisco, California) – Working Capital, an early stage venture fund, launched today with the goal of accelerating supply chain innovations to enable corporations to operate more transparently and ethically around the world. It was founded by Humanity United, a foundation that is part of The Omidyar Group, a diverse collection of organizations, each guided by its own approach, but united by a common desire to catalyze social impact.
To create this first-of-its-kind fund, Humanity United teamed up with leading brands, foundations, and impact investors that share a commitment for more responsible supply chains. Working Capital operates on a shared vision of building scalable solutions to improve labor practices in the global operations and extended supply chains of multinational corporations. In addition to Humanity United, partners and supporters in the fund include: Walmart Foundation, C&A Foundation, Stardust Equity, Open Society Foundations (Soros Economic Development Fund), The Ray and Dagmar Dolby Family Fund, and The Walt Disney Company. The unique structure of aligning with leading companies as funders helps leverage innovative solutions for sustainable impact in a way that is good for all – consumers, business, and society.
“There is a growing market demand for more transparent and responsible corporate supply chains,” said Ed Marcum, Managing Director at Working Capital. “We see an opportunity to invest in emerging solutions that will meet the demands of large multinational corporations while also benefiting millions of vulnerable workers at the bottom of the economic pyramid.”
The Fund will also leverage support from the UK’s Department for International Development in “sidecar” grant funding for pre-investment and seed-stage interventions.
Led by an experienced team from Humanity United, the Fund has already invested in promising portfolio companies, further demonstrating both the market opportunity for emerging entrepreneurs to develop more innovative solutions, and demand from leading brands to adopt these solutions. Current portfolio companies include:
- Provenance, a technology platform that uses blockchain to enable brands, suppliers, and stakeholders to trace products along their journey from producer to consumer; and
- Ulula, a software and data analytics platform that allows organizations to engage with workers in real time to measure and monitor labor-related risks, creating more responsible global supply chains.
Working Capital’s partners and supporters share the Fund’s commitment to reduce worker vulnerability and ensure greater transparency into working conditions.
“Our aim is to use our strengths in collaboration with others to transform the supply chain systems we rely on, and we are proud to be part of the Working Capital group of partners,” said Kathleen McLaughlin, President of the Walmart Foundation. “We believe in solutions that benefit everyone – from the workers who make the products to the consumers who purchase them, creating a shared value for business and society.”
“C&A Foundation is proud to be an anchor investor in the Working Capital Fund. This unique partnership furthers our goal to end the worst forms of labour exploitation in the apparel industry, and promote accountability through innovative solutions and collaboration with industry players,” said Brandee Butler, Head of Gender Justice & Human Rights of the C&A Foundation. “We believe that gender justice is fundamental to improve conditions for workers and support the Fund’s commitment to gender lens investing to improve outcomes for women, and economic returns for investors.”
To better tackle the various transparency and ethical labor challenges associated with complex supply chains, the Fund focuses on product traceability, worker engagement, sourcing platforms, risk assessment, and ethical recruiting tools by investing in emerging technologies such as blockchain, machine learning, artificial intelligence, digital identity and Internet of Things (IoT) solutions.