A new phone service establishes constant dialogue with factory workers, in an effort to improve conditions
The collapse in April of the Rana Plaza building in Dhaka, Bangladesh, killed more than 1,100 people, mainly garment workers who were at their stitching machines on the upper levels of the building. It was the worst ever industrial accident to hit the clothing sector, and a tragedy for the Bangladeshi families.
The accident showed the limits of supply chain assurance by western brands. Multinationals have been outsourcing to Asia since the 1980s and have put in place complex monitoring and auditing systems, but if anything supply chain scandals are getting worse. The Rana Plaza collapse followed a series of factory fires in Bangladesh in which hundreds died. Each case has been accompanied by reports of safety violations and workers threatened if they raise concerns.
Supply chain monitoring by the big brands is arguably limited by its reliance on checking, for example through audits. These provide a snapshot, but audits might be infrequent, involve discussions with factory owners and managers rather than workers, and can fail to reveal hidden problems.
A Silicon Valley start-up believes it might have at least a partial answer to this weakness. Kohl Gill, president and chief executive of LaborVoices, says brands’ supply chain monitoring strategies should be...