April 16, 2020
Several WCIF portfolio companies are making services available to help mitigate COVID-19 impacts. All are well-suited to support a transition to a scalable, impactful, digital future of supply chain social responsibility
As you can see from the announcement of our investment in Kenzen the Working Capital Fund is moving forward, continuing to support businesses that can modernize the practice of supply chain responsibility by making it more scalable, more digital and more effective. We remain optimistic that our portfolio is well-positioned to support an accelerated shift in the medium-term towards responsible supply chain practices.
The short-term picture is dire, of course. The problems that the Fund was established to address have gotten worse. Among other impacts, apparel workers in Bangladesh
face massive unemployment as orders are canceled and factories close; migrant construction workers in the Middle East are locked down in unhealthy conditions; farmworkers newly deemed essential in the US struggle to avoid infection. We embrace the calls for a new social contract to emerge that embraces workers’ rights and reduces inequality, and believe there are practical ways to build on the progress of the last several years. In the immediate future, massive public sector intervention is urgent and necessary to protect the most vulnerable, and the private sector must respect existing obligations to suppliers and workers.
We are supporting our portfolio companies to reframe and restructure where needed given current uncertainty. Each company is putting in place smart measures to mitigate the effects of a potentially significant economic slowdown.
Some are responding to the urgency of the COVD-19 crisis with immediate interventions that can help mitigate some of the problems the pandemic has caused. QuizRR has made its online worker health and safety training available for free
in Chinese and Bengali. Ulula is offering COVID-19 specific solutions which help to measure the impact on workers of pandemic-related disruption, open lines of communication about health and personal hygiene, and facilitate buyer-supplier conversations with real-time information. SupplyShift is offering a COVID-19 mapping assessment at no cost for a limited time.
Beyond these immediate responses to the pandemic, our portfolio companies are adapted to periods like the present with reduced face-to-face interaction and tighter budgets, and to a longer-term future when effectiveness, scale and flexibility are of primary importance in addressing labor rights in global supply chains. The cost-effective scalability inherent in QuizRR’s training, Ulula’s information gathering, Sundar’s
procurement decision-making, Phylagen’s tracing of products, and SupplyShift’s data gathering support a post-pandemic transition where more attention is paid to impact and where costs are a more significant concern. Provenance and OpenSC’s ability to present verified claims within e-commerce makes them well-situated for a world that is shopping more online. Altana’s broad but detailed picture of risk should influence how businesses find stable and reliable partners. Many of these companies are positioned well when consumption and commerce emerge from the pandemic more attuned to sustainability and equitability. They can help ensure that the next generation of supply chain responsibility is effective, scalable and impactful.