SUMMARY: LaborVoices revolutionizes transparency in global labor markets. We crowdsource intelligence about workplace conditions from worker's mobile phones in real-time to help brands and suppliers identify and prevent labor abuses and supply chain disruptions. We also educate workers on ethical labor practices and help them find the best places to work.
PROBLEM SPACE: "Millions of workers in the global apparel sector are vulnerable to life-threatening risks on a daily basis. Despite the uptick in social compliance monitoring over the past decade, labor abuses are still commonplace in many of the worldäó»s sourcing countries. Many factory workers work 14-16 hours a day, seven days a week, on extremely low wages. Female workers face sexual harassment and discrimination. Furthermore, these workers lack a safe and reliable channel to report and resolve such labor violations, as well as an objective source of information to locate better jobs.
On the other hand, multinational brands have limited visibility into working conditions. They rely heavily on traditional social compliance approaches like audits and hotlines that have been proven to misrepresent true workplace conditions. Audit inspections provide only a snapshot in time of factory conditions and often miss major issues, and thus, brands have no way of detecting issues before they escalate.
Until there is more transparency and accountability, brands and factories will have little ability or desire to make the changes necessary to stop labor violations. Furthermore, if workers are not taught how to improve their situations, they are likely to face unethical workplace conditions throughout their lives.
There are three main factors that contribute to the systemic failures of social compliance in the global apparel industry:
1. Currently, factories respond only to pressure from their brand customers around labor standards. Brands have severely limited data on these suppliers, which is often outdated and unverifiable. As a result, brands arenäó»t able to effectively monitor and improve conditions for their suppliers.
2. Factories aim only for bare compliance to brand-imposed standards, as they have limited incentives to exceed those standards. This is worsened by the fact that factory owners have little visibility into their own operations, and cannot act on issues in a way that can cost-effectively improve morale and productivity, and reduce costs of worker attrition, recruiting and training.
3. Workers navigate their labor market primarily using informal networks among their friends and family. This leads to poor matching between workers and employers, and high worker attrition, with approximately 30% of workers changing factories annually in Bangladesh. This also leads to under-investment from employers in cultivating skills and loyalty among workers.
While many service providers work to empower factory workers, none of them have a comprehensive solution to identifying, resolving, and preventing labor abuses in a scalable way."
SOLUTION: "LaborVoices has built a technology platform (Symphony) that allows workers to report on their working conditions, free of cost and anonymously through their existing mobile phones. We aggregate this data and make it easily accessible to factory management and brands in real-time.
This approach is driving a race-to-the-top among apparel brands and factories. Brands are using our data to choose the best factories to source from, and factories are improving working conditions to attract brand customers and workers. Workers are using the rankings and reviews of nearby employers from their peers to find better jobs and improve their own livelihoods.
LaborVoices has already launched Symphony successfully in Bangladesh and Turkey, acquiring ~30,000 workers as users and over 300 factories in its database in less than a year. We have helped brands identify and resolve labor issues such as unpaid wages, abuse, human trafficking, forced labor, poor sanitary conditions, and unsafe buildings. Now that weäó»ve proven our platform can be used to improve global apparel supply chains, we are ready to take our solution to new markets around the world in need of such transformation. For the purpose of this project, we intend to replicate and scale our model in Vietnam."
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