Blockchain In Action: Worker’s Rights & Ending Forced Labor  

3 min read

You would not think that worker’s rights and forced labor would be a big problem in the modern world. Dutch businessman Paul Polman once said,

“Safe working conditions, fair wages, protection from forced labor, and freedom from harassment and discrimination – these must become standard global operating conditions.”

workers rights blockchain technologyIt’s fair to assume that most would agree with Polman’s sentiments. However, according to the International Labor Organization, there are still roughly 25 million people on the planet who are working in forced labor conditions.

Of those 25 million, roughly half reside in the Asia-Pacific region. It’s an area rich in sugarcane, and several food and beverage companies around the globe use it for their supply.

Coca-Cola’s trying for a solution

One organization looking to put an end to these conditions, through the use of blockchain technology, is soft drink giant: Coca-Cola. The soda brand has committed to performing studies in 28 countries. They will focus on examining the labor conditions for their sugar supply chains. While the surveys won’t be complete until 2020, they already plan to address any shortcomings in the process.

Last March, it was announced that Coke would be teaming with the US State Department, along with tech company’s like Blockchain Trust Accelerator, on a project designed to curb forced labor practices.

As Engadget writer Jon Fingas explains,

“The initiative would use blockchain’s distributed ledger technology to create a secure, decentralized registry for workers and their contracts. They’d not only have the sort of identification that isn’t always guaranteed, but a trail of evidence in case employers abuse their power or don’t honor their end of a bargain.”

Even the US Government is investigating

Coca-Cola isn’t the only that looking to use blockchain tech to help put an end to shoddy labor practices. The United States Government is also hoping to utilize this relatively new technology to create change.

As recently as April of 2018, the US Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL) was offering $500,000 in grant money. It’s for companies willing to research how blockchain can be used to prevent employers from exploiting vulnerable workers.

When discussing what types of projects they’re looking to allocate the funds toward, the department explained,

“DRL’s preference it to avoid duplicating past efforts by supporting new and creative approaches. This does not exclude from consideration projects that improve upon or expand existing successful projects in a new and complementary way. DRL also strives to ensure its projects advance the rights and uphold the dignity of the most vulnerable of at-risk populations.”

The organization emphasized that they are looking for proposals with activities that raise awareness, in both the public and private sector, on the potential blockchain technology has for solving worker’s rights challenges. Furthermore, as Just-Cause blogger Michelle Russell explains, the agency also encourages potential grant recipients to,

“publicly disseminate findings on promising practices in utilizing blockchain to address these.”

This innovative new technology could hold the key to curbing, and perhaps even someday ending, forced labor and providing more worker’s rights on a global scale.

By now, many people have heard of blockchain technology. However, they may not be fully aware of all the ways this new tech can change the world around us.

In our series, Blockchain In Action, we take a look at some real-world uses for this digitized and decentralized public ledger. We discover how it can potentially help various industries become more profitable, increase efficiency, and, perhaps most importantly, make our everyday lives easier.

For more awesome articles by Jacques Martin, check ’em out here