It makes global supply chains more efficient through improved assurances, reduced inventory costs, improved lead times, improved cashflow, and more sophisticated data analytics. Traceability can also support compliance in an increasingly complex landscape of consumer demand and regulatory mandates.
Traceability should work for workers, too. Supply chain traceability can and should access and reflect the voices, experiences, and needs of workers. Downstream companies implementing traceability systems in their supply chains need to act on supply chain information surfaced by traceability systems, feeding it back into their labor and human rights due diligence systems that prevent, address, and remediate abuses like forced labor and child labor.
The Supply Chain Traceability Matrix is a guide for leveraging the power of traceability to combat labor rights violations in global supply chains.
Traceability can refer to a wide range of strategies that shed light on the origins and movement of goods in supply chains.
Traceability is not new to global companies. Companies already track the movement of products through their supply chains to ensure food safety, consumer safety, and to forecast and generally optimize supply chain efficiency. Today, many conversations about traceability focus on the promise of sustainable and fair supply chains but it is sometimes hard to parse what is being traced and why.
How can companies use traceability to improve the lives of workers and communities?
Increased supply chain traceability does not automatically lead to better working conditions and less child labor and forced labor. Companies need to design and implement traceability systems with specific labor and human rights due diligence goals in mind like preventing, addressing, and remediating forced and child labor. Companies should also consider how their traceability systems will facilitate efforts to access and amplify worker voice: hearing directly from workers and their advocates at different points in their supply chain and integrating that information back into due diligence systems.
The Matrix is designed to help users interested in designing traceability systems that work for workers. It guides users to start by identifying the due diligence goals they want to support via traceability. From there, the Matrix guides users to consider the types of information they’ll need to meet those goals, learn which traceability approaches offer the needed functions and insight, and finally to consider how the unique characteristics of different global supply chains – including the presence of different labor rights risks – can impact feasibility of traceability system implementation.
At the highest level, the Matrix organizes the broad universe of supply chain traceability approaches – as well as the tools and technology needed to implement these approaches – into groups based on the function they can play in traceability and due diligence systems. These functions are:
What Does Supply Chain Traceability Have to Do with Combating Forced Labor and Child Labor?
Traceability alone cannot improve conditions for workers. Combating forced and child labor and other human rights abuses in global supply chains requires concrete actions: accessing and amplifying workers’ voices around their experiences, identifying and understanding labor conditions workers face every day, working to mitigate and prevent identified risks, and transparently reporting on progress. While they are not a one-size-fits-all answer, traceability systems can be tools to support and inform these due diligence actions. How do we come to a common understanding of what due diligence means for companies? Widely accepted normative due diligence frameworks specific to human and labor rights in global supply chains include:
These frameworks are well aligned and, when taken together, lay out the following key Labor Rights Due Diligence Steps for combating forced labor and child labor:
Let’s get more specific about how traceability systems can be leveraged to create concrete changes for workers. Supply chain insights surfaced by traceability systems CAN support labor rights due diligence IF companies leverage traceability information to take concrete due diligence actions. For example:
The interactive section below starts with each labor rights due diligence step and describes how different traceability system insights and benefits can be used to achieve that step.
The section below starts with each labor rights due diligence goal and discusses the ways in which different traceability approaches can support implementation of that goal.