A software company is looking to use artificial intelligence (AI) to help companies mitigate and avoid human rights risks in their supply chain.
“When it comes to transparency in supply chains, there is a huge amount of data being disseminated not only in spreadsheets but also through social that we can start using to identify and zero,” Justin Dillon, CEO and FRDM’s founder told Fox News Digital, adding that it’s “the beginning, the beginning” for the technology and methods his company uses.
Any AI technology requires significant amounts of data to analyze and process, and Dillon pointed to a treasure trove of available social media data that his company can use to help map problem hotspots in supply chains—areas companies can then work to avoid and help create more ethical routes.
Dillon told the story of a father in Australia who talked about the use of “social listening”, which is the analysis of conversations and trends related to different brands. Marketing firms have been using social listening, also known as social media listening, to help companies understand their image across different platforms and reshape it.
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Large Language Models are accelerating spend data cleansing by more than 90%, according to FRDM: A large Fortune 100 company with 70,000 direct suppliers can get its supply chain mapped to third-tier suppliers in days instead of months or even years. Tiers note degrees of separation from a supplier, with the first tier featuring direct suppliers while the third tier suppliers are suppliers to direct suppliers.
Over 80% of the supply chain remains unstructured, which Dillon joked is code for “a piping hot mess.”
“Less than 6% of companies have visibility beyond tier one vendors,” he wrote in a blog post from April of this year. “For most companies, their supply chain data is a sock drawer where nothing matches. COVID has revealed that.”
“Disparate enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, legacy IT systems with shackled data, multilingual and multicurrency spreadsheets are just a few of the challenges procurement professionals face on a daily basis,” he said.
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Those same tools, however, can harvest documented social media practices from users who aren’t even aware of what they’re doing, helping companies like FRDM map cases of human rights violations.
In the case of the Australian father, he witnessed children using their phones to upload videos of child workers in textile mills in Turkey, unaware that it was “literally streaming exploitation”.
“He was able to find these guys with phones who didn’t know any better and were just showing themselves sewing in stores,” Dillon explained.
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“Social listening is going to be a great, great tool for being able to identify where there might be a hot spot around child labor, forced labor, indentured servitude or some type of exploitation in a supply chain.”
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Qatar’s World Cup organizers have admitted workers were being exploited under contract for FIFA’s preparation tournaments in the Gulf State, something critics have long alleged but the country has either avoided addressing or rejected.
However, finding the data and processing it is not enough, and this is where FRDM enters the equation: the company uses large language models, the most commonly known and used form of AI technology, to help “connect those points”.
Unfortunately, Dillon admits, it’s impossible to create a completely ethically clean supply chain, and most companies probably won’t bother committing to a truly transparent and ethical supply chain. Instead, they’re just “looking for a box to check” so they feel comfortable passing US regulations that require goods to be produced without forced labor or risk having them seized at the border.
“Words like ethical and sustainable — those are such nebulous terms,” Dillon said. “It’s kind of like fitness: it’s never really done, there’s no box to check…where you can say ‘now that’s it.’ The problem with ethical sourcing or sustainable sourcing or transparency is that it’s never actually done.”
“I think all the pressure, both from the media and certainly from the government, is putting pressure on companies to start building systems that they’ve never had before,” he added. “Companies have not had to build transparent supply chains.”
Dillon highlighted how his biggest concern is that companies will try to fix part of the supply chain.
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“We’re getting companies coming to us saying, ‘Oh, I need to use your technology so you can give me a stamp of approval to tackle CBP detention like we did,’ but there’s no no stamp of approval,” Dillon explained. “You have to map your supply chain. Those are literally CBP’s word is: Map your supply chain. So that’s what’s in business right now.”
“They’re very lucky because it provides an accelerator, but it’s not a magic wand, and it pretends to be so much more than it is,” Dillon said.