Equal Experts is proud to have partnered with HACE, a start-up with a mission to sustainably eradicate child labour from corporate supply chains.
In 2020, HACE’s founder Eleanor Harry noticed a problem. Despite the UN Sustainable Development Goal to end all forms of child labour by 2025, there was no enforceable legislation to hold companies accountable for the presence of child labour in their supply chain. Not only that, but there was no large-scale, reliable data to help companies understand the root causes of child labour either.
HACE’s new Child Labour Index, developed in partnership with Equal Experts, will harness existing data and technology and repurpose it, using deep sector expertise on child labour. The aim is to give greater transparency around this Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) and human rights risk, and help companies and their investors engage in better informed dialogue.
Understanding child labour
According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), over 160 million children aged 5-17 years old are estimated to be involved in child labour globally. Seventy-nine million of those children are involved in work considered hazardous by the ILO, such as working with chemicals or machinery, or working for more than 42 hours a week. This work can take place in a wide range of sectors, including agriculture, mining, construction, and manufacturing.
A particularly worrying fact is that, despite the efforts of the UN, the ILO and many non-government organisations, child labour is still on the rise, having increased by 8 million children from 2016 to 2020. Although many people associate child labour with industries like fast fashion, the reality is that it’s present in almost every industry.
This is usually due to child labour’s overwhelming presence in agriculture – the vast quantity of materials required to create an end product are natural, and require growing and harvesting or rearing. We know that 70% of child labour occurs in agriculture, so these very early stages of the supply chain are high-risk areas. However, companies often don’t have the ability to trace their supply chains back this far, and end up inadvertently using supply chains that involve child labour without considering its presence in that chain, or its detrimental effects to childrens’ lives.
Why child labour still exists
The root causes of child labour are complex, and unique to each child, family and community.
Some organisations give cash donations to families involved in child labour in an effort to help them, but this is often a temporary solution that doesn’t necessarily address the root cause. As funding runs out, children could be driven back into work. There’s a common misconception that poverty is the only cause of child labour, but it’s not that simple. While a low income and poor living conditions could increase the likelihood of a child finding themselves in work at a young age, a lack of access to education or other services, climate change, conflict and mass migration are also contributing factors.
Company investors are in a prime position to influence their investees’ governance and management, and have a good chance of being able to contribute towards the eradication of child labour through their investment decisions.
Informed, meaningful conversations between investors and their current (or potential) investees would help drive child labour higher in a company’s priority list. However, this is currently not possible due to the lack of reliable data on which to base these discussions. The availability of this information would allow businesses and investors to understand, manage and hopefully reduce the risk of child labour being present in their supply chain in a sustainable way. This is where HACE comes in.
How HACE is creating transparency around child labour
HACE is developing the world’s first child labour index with the help of Equal Experts. It will use leading-edge technology and a unique methodology to report on child labour in real time.
The platform will assess companies and portfolios in relation to three performance indicators, and provide an overall score on a company’s performance and strategy around child labour in its supply chains. It will also identify potential priority areas in supply chains and generate recommended next steps for investors, so they can begin engaging with investee companies on ESG, human rights and child labour in a way that has never been done before.
“HACE’s partnership with Equal Experts has been integral to the development of a transparent, scalable and ethical approach to the problem faced by investors today around child labour. The technical expertise the team has brought to the table has helped us to mediate data issues faced by the industry as a whole.” – Eleanor Harry, CEO and Founder of HACE
Equal Experts and HACE: A new partnership
Partnering with a small start-up is out of the ordinary for Equal Experts, but the decision to partner with HACE was an easy one. It aligns with our values, and one of the many positive results is that we’ve had to embrace new ways of working and thinking. Besides the usual technical challenges, it has also required new levels of adaptability, resourcefulness and risk-taking.
“It has been a sincere privilege to work in partnership with HACE. Eleanor’s inspiring vision and passion and Beth’s multi-talented, kind-hearted nature form an exceptional duo. The Equal Experts team, in a remarkably short time, has not only met challenges but exceeded expectations. Contributing to this purposeful initiative has been an absolute honour.” – Pete Wittering, Technical Product Delivery Consultant at Equal Experts
In a large digital team we may be tightly tied to our job titles, but within a smaller team we find ourselves embracing more diverse activities and mastering swift pivots between roles and responsibilities.
We’ve already supported HACE through a successful discovery phase and helped secure essential funding for the product. We’re now continuing onwards into the build phase, keeping the momentum and enthusiasm essential to launching a successful start-up.
To find out more about HACE, visit: https://www.thisishace.com/