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This Tech Company Has a Solution to Fight Modern Slavery in Global Supply Chains

Trace Register wants to give companies technology they say will help them fight modern slavery in their supply chains.

The Seattle, Washington-based software team and Sustainability Incubator, an advisory firm that helps seafood companies advance sustainability and human rights challenges, just won a $250,000 grant in an innovation competition, Rethink Supply Chains: The Tech Challenge to Fight Labor, for a jointly developed tech solution to identify and address labor trafficking.

Now Trace Register, which counts Whole Foods Market among its clients, and Sustainability Incubator will develop a digital risk-assessment tool that will integrate into the firm’s traceability software. The tool will help retailers better screen for risks of forced labor and address high-risk zones within their supply chains.

The software will assess sustainability and quality control by asking suppliers via an online survey about the proportion of migrant workers in their supply chains, recruiting processes, ports of call, how long trips are for vessels. It can then cross-check those responses with public data from government authorities or research from non-profit organizations to flag potential risks in the supply chain that should be given a closer look. The technology has so far been targeting seafood suppliers, but could be rolled out to other retailers facing the same supply chain struggles.

“The presence of forced labor in corporate supply chains is a systemic problem that has been difficult to address,” Catherine Chen, director of investments of Humanity United, which coordinates the Partnership for Freedom, host of the innovation competition. “It is our hope that these technologies will give businesses, workers and governments helpful tools for greater transparency and visibility.”

The winners will spend the next year working on the tool and will deploy the new solutions by mid-2017.