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How predictive analytics can help end slave labor

Thor Olavsrud | June 18, 2015
Slavery may be illegal around the world, but the practice is alive and well. Whether you know it or not, it probably supports your modern lifestyle. Supply chain analytics can help companies discover forced labor and child labor in their sub-tier supply chains.

slave labor primary

How many slaves work for you? If you own electronics, jewelry or sporting goods; drink coffee or tea; eat food or wear clothes, it's more than you think. It's probably a lot. If you dig deep enough into the supply chain of many of the products we use and consume every day, you'll find forced labor and child labor.

Predictive analytics can help you root modern slavery out of your supply chain.

An estimated 21 million to 36 million people are enslaved today according to NGO Free the Slaves. About 78 percent of those people are victims of labor slavery. Whether you know it or not, they work for you: mining conflict minerals in the Congo to make electronics, fishing in Malaysia, as migrant labor in the U.S. It's children in India mining the mica that puts the glitter in cosmetics.

In 2011, Justin Dillon, founder and CEO of nonprofit organization Made in a Free World decided to help people put the problem of modern slavery in perspective by founding the website Slavery Footprint in partnership with the U.S. Department of State. Slavery Footprint consists of a short survey that consumers can take to answer the question, "How many slaves work for you?"

(For the record, my relatively modest lifestyle in New York City is supported by 30 slaves, according to Slavery Footprint.)

How predictive analytics can stop slave labor

But while Slavery Footprint was a success -- it's reached 23 million consumers worldwide and was acknowledged by U.S. President Barack Obama in his speech on slavery last year to the Clinton Global Initiative -- ending slavery requires more than raising consumer awareness, says Tim Minahan, senior vice president and chief marketing officer, SAP Cloud and Line of Business.

"The real way to solve this problem is to go where the money is," Minahan says. "The largest Global 2000 enterprises that spend over $12 trillion on goods and services every year have incredible power to make sure that suppliers do the right thing."

Last week, at the Ariba LIVE event in Munich, SAP company Ariba announced plans to combine the power of its business commerce network with Made in a Free World's comprehensive forced labor database to use predictive analytics to help organizations root forced labor out of their supply chains.

"Slave and child labor is rampant in supply chains around the world. But it doesn't have to be," Dillon says. "We live in a digitally connected and data-driven economy. And we have the tools and information needed to uncover and end it."

While some organizations do knowingly benefit from sweatshop labor and poor working conditions among their suppliers, Dillon notes that many companies simply don't have a good view of what's happening in their sub-tier supply chains.


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