Search any corporate website in 2023 and the chances are you’ll find a statement about a commitment to ESG, and perhaps information about how the company is committed to eliminating child labour.
The problem is that many organisations simply don’t know if child labour is an issue in their supply chain, much less how to address it. Globally, one in ten children is involved in child labour, which the UN estimates equates to 160 million children, a figure that is growing rapidly.
Manchester-based tech company HACE is shining a spotlight on the issue with the launch of their new Child Labour Index, which ranks the world’s biggest companies based on their performance around child labour. HACE hopes that the Index, built in partnership with Equal Experts, will encourage investors to take a closer look at the issue of child labour in corporate supply chains. The company believes that the index will harness the power of the investment community to influence the way organisations manage supply chains and the risk of child labour.
“The Index is needed because many large organisations don’t have the visibility that they need to identify child labour in their supply chains,” explains Eleanor Harry, CEO and Founder of HACE. “For example, a global corporation might not have children working in its canning factory, but child labour could be prevalent in the mines that supply tin to the factory. Most organisations don’t have the visibility into supply chains to see this sort of issue, presenting a risk to their reputation and, ultimately, financial performance.”
The key to understanding what investment and action is needed is – of course – data. HACE’s existing product AthlumTM platform uses millions of data points to provide a detailed, granular insight into the risk of child labour in a range of industries and geographies.
For the past three years, some of the world’s largest companies have used AthlumTM to provide insight into the risk of child labour throughout supply chains. While companies are investing billions in ESG programmes that attempt to address child labour, a lack of insight means this investment is often wasted. “The root causes of child labour might vary depending on the circumstances, so it’s important to understand why families need to rely on income from child labour in that particular industry and place,” says Eleanor. “We have seen instances where organisations are investing in electricity infrastructure when 80% of local families have access to power already, but only 40% have access to safely managed water.”
The new Child Labour Index will combine some of that data with public information about individual organisations to create a ranked index showing how well the world’s most influential companies are addressing child labour.
Building the Index is technically challenging, in part because of the vast quantities of data involved. The underlying platform will be developed by Equal Experts using cutting-edge AI and NLP, says Simon Case, Head of Data at Equal Experts. “We don’t often get to apply AI to data that has the potential to be so meaningful, so this has been a really exciting project to be involved in,” says Case. The prototype has been built using a number of Amazon Web Services (AWS), including EC2, ECC, Neptune, DynamoDB and RDS.
At launch, the Index will rank the world’s largest companies, and the intention is to expand the range and number of companies included over time. HACE is actively seeking partners to engage with the new platform and understand how the insights created can help companies to make more positive, proactive decisions around child labour.
Eleanor hopes that the index will provide a useful starting point for conversations about child labour. “We hope that companies will see the Index as a way to understand and improve their performance around child labour, and we hope to work with companies to understand their policies and provide advice around how to improve supply chain visibility with a view to reducing the risk of child labour,” she says.
The challenge of child labour might seem remote but it’s an increasing issue. The UN estimates that 8 million more children have been brought into child labour since 2016 alone. Eleanor hopes that the Child Labour Index could be a first step towards making real change. “Child labour doesn’t just affect this generation, it has consequences that last forever,” she says. “You can’t just rewind and have a different childhood, and it’s critical that we start to understand how important that is.”
To find out more visit: https://www.thisishace.com/childlabourindex