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Partnership for Freedom Launches $500K Challenge for Tech Solutions to Fight Forced Labor

Image credit: Humanity United

A public-private partnership has launched a new competition to combat modern-day slavery. Partnership for Freedom will award $500,000 in prizes to technological solutions that are selected as finalists for Rethink Supply Chains: The Tech Challenge to Fight Labor Trafficking.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that 14.2 million people are victims of forced labor in private economic activities such as agriculture, construction, domestic work and manufacturing. In response, a variety of stakeholders have attempted to attack the blight from various angles: industry coalitions and organizations have tightened labor standards and codes of conduct; the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has created a traceability tool; the UK government recently instituted a Modern Slavery Act; and the Tronie Foundation has created a Freedom Seal that brands can earn by showing they’ve taken appropriate measures to eliminate the risk from their supply chains. But more ideas, tools, and actions are needed to solve this problem in global supply chains, particularly those of the seafood, clothing, and palm oil industries.

“The scope of this issue is enormous,” said Randy Newcomb, President and CEO of peace and freedom charity Humanity United. “We need new actors, new skills, new data, new ideas and new energy to improve anti-trafficking efforts around the world.”

Submissions for Rethink Supply Chains will be accepted through December 13, 2015. It is recommended that submissions focus on tools or technologies that can do one or more of the following:

  • Help workers share information and access resources in safe, secure ways;
  • Improve transparency and accountability in labor recruitment; and/or
  • Enable tracking, mapping and/or information sharing on products and labor conditions in supply chains at high risk of forced labor.

Up to five teams or organizations will be selected as finalists, each of whom will be awarded $20,000 and supporting services, including admission into an accelerator program, boot camp, and access to expert mentorship. Winners of the $250,000 grand prize and the $50,000 prize for the runner-up will be announced in April 2016.

“Forced labor has no place in our global supply chains nor in the goods and services we buy every day. We look forward to the innovative ideas and designs we anticipate from this Challenge as we seek to eliminate human trafficking from the global marketplace,” said Ambassador Susan Coppedge of the U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

Rethinking Supply Chains is the second in a series of three competitions from Partnership for Freedom to foster solutions to end human trafficking. The first competition, Reimagine: Opportunity, focused on solutions to support victims of human trafficking in the U.S.

Partnership for Freedom is led by Humanity United in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Justice, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of State, the Department of Labor, Steven Spielberg’s Righteous Persons Foundation, the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women initiative, and the Ray and Dagmar Dolby Family Fund.


Hannah Furlong is one of Sustainable Brands's Contributing Writers, based in Canada. She is researching the circular economy as a Master's student in Sustainability Management at the University of Waterloo and holds a Bachelor's in Environment and Business Co-op. Hannah… [Read more about Hannah Furlong]


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