As apart of the 2021 OECD Forum on Due Diligence in the Garment and Footwear Sector, Managing Partner Dan Viederman moderated a session entitled ‘Upstream Due Diligence‘.
A message from Managing Partner, Dan Viederman
Thanks to the good people at the OECD Responsible Business Conduct unit, I had the pleasure of moderating a conversation about ‘Due Diligence in the Garment and Footwear Sector,’ on February 3rd, 2021. If you want the full video you’ll get to hear about fascinating and mostly-technologically enabled diligence initiatives including:
- Responsible Sourcing Network, which builds coalitions of engaged stakeholders to drive changes in policy and practice;
- Oritain uses the power of science to verify origins
- Cotton Connect’s TraceBale system, which is proprietary software that captures information from farm to finished product
- SupplyShift, which creates a network around supply chain data to facilitate better and faster decision making
- Elevate’s EIQ system which uses web scraping and AI to identify risks faced by companies in supply chains
- Altana AI, which leverages an unparalleled dataset to provide an artificial intelligence model of the global supply chain
- Haelixa, which uses DNA-based markers to trace textiles from farm to retail
Concern about the origins of goods and the working conditions that prevail at those origins are long-standing, but this topic is of particular timeliness due to increased regulatory concerns, withhold release orders, and import bans.
The panel included participants from the private sector, trade unions, civil society, and numerous diligence experts. Different perspectives, all united in dissatisfaction with our current collective ability to assess labor risks and undertake remedy in complex, large, opaque supply chains.
Most of the initiatives we discussed are tech-enabled. Technology facilitates scaled application in a space where supply chains involve tens of thousands (if not more) of suppliers. Technology can be cost-effective where work on this issue is often resource-constrained.
But tech is not a magic bullet. Technology can surface issues and highlight risks for business, and be used by people in vulnerable settings to protect themselves. But any initiative – tech-enabled or not — is ultimately only as useful in addressing human rights to the extent that people in institutions make the right decisions. The appropriate combination of tech and decision-making varies across the complexity of supply chains and the institutions that make them up.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for the problem of upstream due diligence in supply chains. Initiatives and interventions operate across a range of continua. Some interventions are easily applied at scale, while others offer benefits deep within one workplace or stakeholder group. Some interventions are used directly by workers while others operate at the level of an entire supply chain. Some are best used by multinational corporations, others by workers, and still others by employers. Some can be applied at the raw material or origin of a good, while others are applicable in manufacturing or logistics settings.
We at Working Capital Fund aim to accelerate the transition to more effective and scalable due diligence and thereby open new opportunities for impact for rights holders including vulnerable workers.