Under this act, any entity with significant operations in Canada will be obligated to annually report on its efforts to prevent and remediate forced and child labor in its supply chains.
This includes disclosing information about relevant policies, due diligence processes, supply chain hotspots, employee training and remediation measures. The act also includes provisions for corrective measures and punishment.
Identifying forced labor with technology
The complex nature of supply chains makes identifying when and where forced or child labor occurs a significant challenge. Supply chains can contain thousands of suppliers that span continents. Even major international companies like Levi Strauss, which has a strong supplier code of conductcan end up facing allegations of violations in their supply chains.
To explore how forced and child labor can be identified in supply chains, we conducted over 30 interviews with experts from around the world. These experts included representatives from non-governmental organizations, companies and auditing bodies, providing insight into how emerging technologies can be used to support identifying such practices.
The difficulty of identifying far-flung suppliers, for instance, could be simplified by using DNA to identify a product’s origin, as is done with cotton, seafood and chocolate.
Integrating sensors, cameras and other cloud technology can enable real-time monitoring of working conditions, mitigating the risks of advance notice of audits. Sensors and cameras, for example, have been used on fishing vessels to remotely transmit data in near real-time.
Worker voice platforms, such as those used in the electronics industryallow workers to provide feedback directly through smartphone apps. This can serve as a real-time whistleblower mechanism for workers trapped in forced labor.
Technology is only part of the solution
Despite its potential benefits, technology still has weaknesses, like high costs, susceptibility to manipulation and weak data security, that need to be addressed. Blockchain technology, for instance, can codify manipulated or incorrect data unless the necessary precautions are taken.
Meeting the requirements of the Fighting Against Forced Labor and Child Labor in Supply Chains Act will require grounding technology in a broader risk-based approach consisting of supplier screening, monitoring and auditing.
In addition, even when technology does indicate the presence of forced or child labor, on-the-ground verification and follow-up is often required. Identification is just the first step. The act requires reporting on remediation, which is typically based on long-term collaborative relationships with local parties.
Addressing the issue of forced and child labor in supply chains is difficult and complex. While technology can help companies fulfill their reporting obligations under the act, identifying and remediating these crucial issues will require ongoing and concerted efforts.
The first report is due on May 31, 2024, so companies have no time to spare in working to comply with the act.
How Canadian companies can use tech to identify forced labor in their supply chains (2023, November 4)
retrieved 4 November 2023
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