Can Mobile Phones Prevent More Factory Deaths?

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Can Mobile Phones Prevent More Factory Deaths?

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Can mobile phones prevent more factory deaths? @GoodWorldTech has a solution via @FastCoExist

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Labor Link--a service that lets companies anonymously survey factory workers at their suppliers--hopes to make working conditions in the developing world more transparent.

Thursday, January 10, 2013 - 9:45am

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Six billion people--many of them in developing countries--have mobile phones. They’re already used for such diverse purposes as tracking disease and transferring money.Labor Link, an initiative from Good World Solutions (a nonprofit subsidiary of Fair Trade USA), is working to make mobile phones an integral tool in improving factory conditions.

For decades, the garment industry has tried to monitor health and safety violations in its factories to stave off PR disasters like those plaguing Nike. And for what? In 2012, a garment factory fire in Pakistan killed 264 workers, a fire in a factory supplying items for Tommy Hilfiger killed 29 people, and a fire at a Bangladeshi supplier for Sears and Walmart killed 112 people. That’s just what made headlines.

A big part of the problem is that factory auditing often doesn’t work. Factories will hide unsafe conditions and coach employees on what to say, rendering the whole process useless. In the end, brands have little idea of what actually goes on with their suppliers. Heather Franzese, the Director of Good World Solutions, observed the issues with auditing firsthand during her time in the apparel industry. "Companies were spending billions of dollars to try to improve conditions in supply chains for environmental and social issues, but they don’t have a direct connection to the workers and the farmers that are thousands of miles away," she says.

In 2010, Good World Solutions piloted Labor Link, an initiative that pushes short surveys to factory workers via mobile phones, with a group of people making artisan sweaters in Peru. Now Labor Link is working with over 10 organizations (including Patagonia, Eileen Fisher, Social Accountability International, and Fair Trade USA) along with 15,000 workers and farmers in multiple countries.

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Jenna Larson
Fair Trade USA
Keywords: Innovation & Technology | Apparel | Cell Phone | Fair Trade USA | Good World Solutions | Innovation & Technology | Labor Link | Mobile | Responsible Production & Consumption | Social Impact & Volunteering | Solution

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