KnowTheChain: The Importance of Knowing the Supply Chain in a Company


Too often, individuals mistakenly use ‘human trafficking’ synonymously with ‘sex trafficking;’ however, people fail to recognize that labor trafficking is also a common form of human trafficking. According to the Polaris Project, “Approximately 24.9 million people are victims of forced labor today and [they] are generating $150 billion of illegal profits in the private economy” across numerous industries in the U.S. and globally. It is important now more than ever to come up with clear-cut goals and strategies to combat this large-scale phenomenon, because absolutely anyone from virtually any background can be susceptible to forced labor.


KnowTheChain is a project undertaken by Humanity United in partnership with the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, Sustainalytics, Thomson Reuters Foundation, and Verité that acts as a valuable resource “for companies and investors to understand and address forced labor risks within their global supply chains.” Understanding forced labor risks is an essential tactic for businesses to implement. Consumers do not want to purchase products from a company that does not treat their employees well, so it bodes well when all regulations regarding fair treatment of employees are followed. KnowTheChain consistently gauges company protocol and operations, and provides realistic, constructive feedback to agencies on how to improve in terms of better practices for equal treatment of their workers. One of the biggest vulnerabilities employees face is the absence of robust, safe labor protections by the company that they work for. Without exercising strict policies on labor protections, the fundamental reputation of the agency as a whole can be devalued. Though not an easy task, KnowTheChain aims to target the backbone of these agencies and motivate companies and investors into creating meaningful impacts in the realm of eliminating forced labor on a global scale. Supplying companies with useful tips that transform their decision processes for better policy-making can truly demonstrate long-lasting, positive results.

So far, KnowTheChain offers resources to three different sectors/classifications of companies: Information & Communication Technology (ITC), Food and Beverage, and Apparel and Footwear. Each of these sectors contains subsections which include: company comparison, themes, key findings, methodology, and a copy of an earlier benchmark that was created in 2016.

The 2018 company comparison for Information & Community Technology outlined that the 40 companies that were assessed based on seven themes: commitment; traceability and risk assessment; purchasing practices; recruitment; worker voice; monitoring; and remedy and the companies could score a total of 100 points. There is a detailed breakdown of findings in the well-written report.

Similarly, in the company comparison for Food and Beverage companies, 38 companies were tested on the same seven themes with another detailed breakdown of the findings in a report. With the Apparel and Footwear company comparison, there was a detailed breakdown of findings in a report and the comparison assessed 43 companies. In each of these three categories, the key findings section provides a thorough analysis of the reasoning behind the accredited scores for each of the themes.

The methodology section for each of the benchmarks has greatly improved using the data from the 2016 benchmarks to account for growth in each of these companies. For example, by 2018, “KnowTheChain incorporated retailers into its analysis. Retailers have responsibility for their products across their supply chains and have been evaluated using information that is supply chain-specific and that applies to the company regardless of the sector.” This change was implemented post-2016 benchmarks to account for change over time. KnowTheChain keeps this information available to the public which allows for easy access. With such transparency, new agencies can see what works and what does not in terms of forced labor policies for each of the companies that are evaluated by KnowTheChain.

An abundance of resources are also provided to both companies and investors via KnowTheChain. These resources consist of an overview of forced labor risks, improving traceability and risk assessment, incorporating worker voice, tips and tricks on how to remedy abuse, and many more. Likewise, the resources for investors consist of an overview of forced labor risks, information about the legislative landscape, undertaking due diligence, and methods of collaboration. All of these resources can considerably benefit companies and investors into moving away from forced labor permanently.

KnowTheChain is a platform that includes a comprehensive look at supply-chains in various modules (ITC companies, Food/Beverage companies, and Apparel/Footwear companies) and their forced labor policies. This platform allows for further scrutiny of company policies currently in place and can lead to a fruitful payoff in which a world without forced labor can exist.

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About the Author

Mrinalini Nagarajan.png

Mrinalini Nagarajan is a junior at University of Maryland, College Park studying Criminology & Criminal Justice as her major, and Cybersecurity and Spanish as her minors. In her free time, she likes to work for her school's athletics department, watch Game of Thrones, only seasons 1-8 of How I Met Your Mother, Friends, Dexter, and Parks & Recreation, plan creative events, and take really long naps. She is super excited to be partnering with Dressember to publish educational content regarding the fight to end modern day slavery.