SHINE Awarded Grant to Tackle Worker Well-being Using Blockchain Technology

November 7, 2018
blockchain

We are thrilled to announce that the Sustainability and Health Initiative for NetPositive Enterprise (SHINE) at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has been awarded a grant from the U.S. State Department to develop a blockchain-based platform that will enable a holistic and secure approach to tracking workers’ health and well-being.  This is the first-ever opportunity via a State Department grant to leverage this state-of-the-art technology to address the challenge of insufficient protection for workers’ well-being and poor audit procedures. 

About Blockchain & SHINE’s Well-being Survey

Blockchain is a distributed ledger technology that empowers anyone with an internet connection to transfer anything of value (currency, documents, survey answers) — anywhere, anytime, with unmatched security and integrity. Trust is embedded into a blockchain’s architecture — a decentralized, cryptographically secured database that can be seen and downloaded by everyone on the network.

Implementing this solution as part of SHINE’s Well-being Survey will make it possible to verify that employee data is secure and free from external manipulation.  Employees will be able to maintain their privacy while providing data that would help employers serve their needs better.

Thanks to blockchain’s secure architecture, SHINE’s solution will be easily transferable across industrial sectors making it possible for the survey to establish itself as a universal benchmark and communicate how businesses impact their employees’ well-being. With wide adoption and use of this technology in the future, compliance audits could be supplanted by a more effective and efficient process for business and worker well-being.

The Challenge Around Measuring and Improving Well-being in the Workplace

One of the many problems faced by companies is that there is no effective standard solution to evaluate the contractors in their supply chain on their ability to protect their workers’ rights. SHINE’s Well-being Index on a blockchain will give them that solution.

There is a lack of trust and transparency in audits of factory working conditions, the mainstay of enforcing ethical supply chains.  Compliance audits typically aim for achieving minimum standards versus striving for excellence. The audit criteria are set to tackle violations rather than to understand process improvement, efficiencies, and the effectiveness of corrective actions.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), work-related health problems have resulted in an economic loss of 4-6 percent of GDP for most countries while approximately 70 percent of workers do not have any insurance to compensate them in the case of diseases or injuries.* Many of them work in hazardous conditions and suffer work-related disease and disabilities. The need for better protection for workers’ well-being is acute. In many parts of the world, more than 50 percent of workers are employed with no social protections for seeking health services.**

A New Approach to Measuring Worker Well-being

Beginning in 2015, SHINE developed a survey tool to measure worker well-being in Levi Strauss & Co. supplier factories. The tool was modified for garment factory workers from the SHINE Well-being Survey, a survey adopted by SHINE-collaborating companies in the U.S., such as Johnson & Johnson, EYP Inc, Owens Corning, Allegacy Federal Credit Union, Kohler Co., and Aetna.

Although compliance audits were still conducted, our survey process augmented information and action because it shifted the emphasis from strictly an audit process to an ongoing quality improvement process.

In collaboration with the Blockchain Trust Accelerator (BTA), ConsenSys, and Levi Strauss & Co. (LS&Co.), SHINE aims to create a scalable framework for accurately monitoring worker health and well-being, a crucial right afforded to workers under Article 24 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights.  

We envision this solution as a first and crucial step in a transparent evaluation of workforce well-being and factory conditions that draws directly from the experience of workers instead of an external auditor. This new perspective, incorporating the workers’ direct experience, has the potential to revolutionize the current compliance audit procedures that commonly lack objectivity. 

The SHINE Well-being Survey currently offers a workforce-wide view of factory conditions and individual health and well-being reported directly from workers.  The blockchain-based solution will be first tested at LS&Co factories in Torreon and Nazareno, Mexico, which collectively employ more than 5,000 workers.

A successful implementation of this blockchain-based solution in LS&Co’s Mexican factories will create opportunities to scale this pilot across industries and countries. The efficient, transparent and immutable nature of the blockchain technology will empower the existing SHINE Well-being Survey to better monitor factories and their workers’ well-being.

Our long-term goal is to establish the blockchain-based system as a universal benchmark for labor rights protection across industries and countries, improving accountability and creating a virtuous cycle of positive competition to improve workforce well-being.

 

About the Grant Parties

SHINE

Sustainability and Health Initiative for NetPositive Enterprise (SHINE) at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health is the leading network connecting business leadership with pioneering academic research to advance health and sustainability. SHINE works with companies across all sectors to test and refine innovative business strategies that make more measurable positive impact on our health and the sustainability of the planet. We translate this research into powerful tools and methods that can transform your organization's corporate responsibility, sustainability and well-being practices.

Levi Strauss & Co.

Levi Strauss & Co. has a long history of ensuring ethical supply chains. It was the first apparel company to release the names and locations of all its active, approved owned-and-operated, contract and licensee factories around the world.  LS&Co. has been actively working with their vendors around the world to develop a more transparent, deomocratic process aimed at engaging their vendors in quality improvement to ensure humane conditions in supply chains and to improve workers’ quality of life overall. 

Blockchain Trust Accelerator (BTA)

The Blockchain Trust Accelerator (BTA) is the world’s leading platform for harnessing blockchain technology to solve social impact and governance challenges. Established in 2016, BTA brings together governments, technologists, civil society organizations, and philanthropists to build Blockchain pilots that benefit society. BTA projects and research help organizations and institutions increase accountability, ensure transparency, create opportunity, and build trust in core institutions.

ConsenSys

ConsenSys is one of the largest and most experienced companies in the blockchain space. They have over 700 blockchain experts in 22 countries with global delivery capabilities and work with Fortune 500 companies and NGOs to build proof-of-concepts and production-ready solutions.

*http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs389/en/ 

**http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs389/en/