Supply Trace, which offers unrestricted access to its data, has commenced its pilot phase targeting the apparel sector. Focusing initially on US apparel imports, the platform seeks to uncover any potential links between shipments and forced labour occurrences in the Uyghur Autonomous Region of China.

The platform leverages a comprehensive dataset that includes import, export, shipping, and customs data, complemented by publicly available trade records such as shipping and bill of lading data as well as other supply chain information as its baseline.

Employing machine learning algorithms, Supply Trace automates the process of analysing this data, tracing intricate relationships between entities. Additionally, the platform integrates risk intelligence, informed by research conducted by a team of Uyghur nationals with specialised expertise in forced labour issues within the Uyghur Autonomous Region of China.

Plans are underway to expand its scope to encompass other sectors and regions in subsequent phases.

Globally, businesses are grappling with evolving legislative mandates that hold them accountable for human rights violations within their supply chains. Recent enactments such as the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act in the US and impending approvals of the EU’s Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive in Europe underscore the urgency for robust measures to address these concerns.

Dr. Shawn Bhimani, assistant professor of supply chain management at Northeastern University and lead developer of Supply Trace, emphasised the necessity of a paradigm shift in global sourcing practices.

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Drawing from his prior experience in procurement at a Fortune 5 company, Bhimani highlighted the material risks businesses face in neglecting human rights impacts within their supply chains and how it was no longer an ESG exercise but something that now requires input from “sourcing, sustainability, procurement, legal and compliance teams.”

He added: “Previous risk data has been hidden, with access for many impossible due to costly paywalls. By democratising access to trade risk, all stakeholders will have equal access to insights to enable companies to proactively mitigate the risk of forced labour in their supply chains and accelerate progress towards improved conditions in global supply chains.”

In response to the House Ways and Means markup of de minimis trade legislation, the National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO) president and CEO today (18 April) announced her support for the aggressive reform of an “extremely flawed tariff waiver mechanism” and says not finding a “comprehensive solution” would risk China’s continued exploitation of American industries.