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Top News Award for groundbreaking tool showing forced labour in supply chains

Award for groundbreaking tool showing forced labour in supply chains

Slave-Free Alliance and Hope for Justice are proud to have won the SAS Hackathon 2023 (Americas region) for the creation of a pioneering visual dashboard showing forced labour by country, industry and commodity, pulling from a wide variety of data sources and formats.

Slave-Free Alliance’s Marc Stanton and Tom Frost were the subject matter experts on a team that also included data scientists from leading universities and two mentors from analytics company SAS. The other team members were Becky Lorig from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas; Zoraya Cruz-Bonilla, MPA from Binghampton University; and Arpita Deb from Drexel University; and Tom Sabo and John Stultz from SAS.

Globally, more than 100 teams representing 140 organizations competed in the Hackathon challenge.

‘Team End Forced Labor’ created a dashboard pulling from disparate data sources and types. The dashboard tool allows users to interrogate the data visually, for example clicking on a country and getting useful statistics, or seeing country rankings of imports of goods known to be highest-risk for forced labour and child labour.

Screenshot from a video presentation demonstrating the dashboard in action

Slave-Free Alliance Director, Marc Stanton (pictured below), said: “This shows just how important technology is going to be to the future of the fight against modern slavery and in protecting supply chains against forced labour. For businesses, this could be the start of the supply chain due diligence funnel, answering key questions like ‘what are our biggest risks?’ and ‘where do we need to focus initial attention?’.”

Speaking on LinkedIn, Becky Lorig explained: “We were able to apply Natural Language Processing techniques to find commodities with higher forced and child labor risks due to their complex and difficult-to-track supply chains. It feels great to apply data science methods to humanitarian causes.”

The team met twice weekly for four weeks during March and April 2023. Tom Frost, Advisor – Human Rights in Supply Chains at Slave-Free Alliance, said: “It’s incredible just how much was achieved in such a short space of time. This was a group of people who had never worked with each other before, and the actual product that was produced, over the internet and across different countries, was really quite inspiring and impressive.”

“There is so much data in the public domain about modern slavery and forced labour, but it’s in so many different places and in so many different formats: numerical data, journal data, image-based data. Compiling all that into a single tool for businesses to use – the potential is enormous if this was developed on a full-time basis.”

Tom Frost, Slave-Free Alliance

The overall challenge was ‘how businesses can eradicate forced labour in their supply chains’, set in the context of the growing momentum towards businesses becoming good global citizens. Leading businesses no longer expect to deliver value only for shareholders, but they recognise that long-term sustainable value is also about minimising impact on others and ideally how they can benefit all stakeholders, the condition of the planet, and those living on it.

After the announcement of the Award, Marc Stanton said: “It’s fantastic to have won. I was blown away by the skills and knowledge of the team we worked with and what was achieved, and I’m excited about how technology is going to enable businesses to address this crucial issue of forced labour in supply chains.”

The overall 2023 SAS Hackathon winner across all categories will be named at the SAS Explore conference in Las Vegas in September. Peter Lundqvist, Global Hackathon Program Manager at SAS, said: “The SAS Hackathon is a crucible for curiosity and an incubator for innovation. AI in the cloud gives Hackathon teams – and the organizations they represent – the power to quickly transform data into better, faster decisions that improve lives.”

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