Ulula and Amfori Partnership Empowers Workers to Speak for Change

Vietnamese woman working on farm

Written by Ulula

September 9, 2022

Crossing the Communication Chasm

Effective worker engagement means closing the gap between global brands and the workers in their supply chains. Empowering workers to lead change fundamentally alters the structure of grievance remediation by giving them a voice that’ll be heard all the way along the value chain.

The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights require workers to have access to effective remedies should incidents occur. As global due diligence standards grow, the responsibility to ensure that workers’ rights are respected across the whole value chain is now shared from one end to the other.

amfori’s Speak For Change initiative is currently underway in Vietnam with plans to be rolled out to more countries in 2022 and 2023. Ulula sought challenge and opportunity by working with one of Europe’s oldest and largest industry associations. As a result of winning the public bid, Ulula helped develop Speak for Change, an accessible, multilingual and multi-channel complaints management system.

Speak for Change has increased the accessibility, anonymity and agility of amfori’s worker engagement systems, and has facilitated improved stakeholder cooperation in the remediation process. Worker voice is baked into its philosophy, tuned to provide global workers access to anonymized, multi-lingual complaints response and remediation, built on a foundation of informed consent.

Digital tools aren’t there to replace in-person channels for complaints management, and aren’t a replacement for effective employer operational-level grievance mechanisms. They provide another layer of support that ensures worker voices aren’t lost on their journey across the supply chain.

Existing analog solutions like suggestion boxes, hotlines and centralized email inboxes can be hindered by an inability to scale with a growing workforce. It’s of particular concern for amfori, whose large membership necessitates a scalable grievance protocol. Indeed, the project’s ambition is to scale up to 3-4 more countries by early 2023, facilitated by Ulula’s digital platform and the virtual, remote onboarding tools finessed in Vietnam.

Team up to Speak up

Extensive consultation between Ulula, the amfori secretariat, amfori’s members, trusted third parties, and other stakeholders, is crucial to ensuring Speak for Change can achieve its lofty transnational ambitions. Ulula and amfori carried out co-design sessions with amfori’s members as well as civil society stakeholders in Vietnam to prepare for the project. The creation of a cross-organizational technical working group meant that Ulula could tweak its solution to meet the specific needs of amfori’s members and align the solution to amfori’s rules of procedure.

Open dialogue, collaboration and continuous improvement were fundamental to the project’s design. For each custom program like Speak for Change, Ulula appoints a diverse and multi-disciplinary team to achieve the program’s objectives, which includes IT professionals, subject matter experts, local consultants and a team skilled in collaborative and human-centered design.

The success of the project hinges on leveraging Ulula’s tech expertise, and amfori’s global reach. They’re building a holistic space where workers can inspire organizational change themselves, based upon their own lived experiences in the workplace, without their voice being diluted, delayed or filtered through opaque processes or organizational indifference.

Accessibility, Anonymity, Agility

These are the tenets that underpin the mechanism’s design. Ulula’s software is accessible through online and offline channels and includes automatic translation for multiple languages, ensuring that no worker is left behind. Workers can engage directly with the mechanism, unencumbered by circumstance, and their identity remains theirs to disclose.

In collaboration with local stakeholders, Ulula constructed the telecommunications infrastructure in Vietnam, as well as adapted their platform to work with popular local chat app Zalo. Management and worker training was carried out in a variety of ways, including individual and group training conducted onsite and remote. A localized marketing campaign also took place to prepare for the roll-out.

Workers can access a complaints management system on their mobile phones, by calling a toll-free number, with a QR code, a Zalo account, or a web form. Investigation Handlers then use Ulula’s Listen Module to manage individual cases through to the investigation stage. Where appropriate, Remediation Handlers then carry out the remediation stage. All the while, the in-built feedback process ensures that corporate members, and the workers themselves, receive consistent progress updates, closing the feedback loop and guaranteeing that the mechanism remains focused on people, not processes.

The result is a coordinated, streamlined complaint resolution process with appropriate triage criteria and clear lines of responsibility throughout the complaint handling and remediation process.

The View from the C-Suite

Cooperation between stakeholders means that Speak for Change can adapt to regional nuance and enable data-driven decisions informed by direct worker inputs. The extensive co-design collaboration process led to the following extra features:

  • 2-way email communication channel with complainants.
  • Automated notifications for all stakeholders as the complaint goes through each lifecycle stage.
  • Functionality for amfori to onboard new suppliers to the platform.
  • Possibility to appoint ‘lead’ members on complaints, and assign investigation and remediation partners to complaints as they’re submitted.
  • Deployment of an EU-based server to comply with GDPR.

Macro-level grievance management enables quality of life improvements for workers and companies. Real-time case monitoring is done through dashboard visualizations that emphasize pre-determined key performance indicators, and charts that aggregate complaint data by issue type and severity. Broad analysis allows companies to better prioritize resources to combat risks.

Speaking of Change

The adoption of digital/3rd party mechanisms is a process. As the platform earns the trust of the community through mindful remediation, Ulula and amfori expect more producers and employers will adopt it successfully.

The platform has been embraced by workers in Vietnam. Of the 150+ cases managed since its April 2021 launch, 80% came directly from workers. The majority were raised through QR code and web form.

“It was a pleasure to work with Ulula to build the Speak for Change programme! We especially noted their experience in bringing together different parties and stakeholders in the case management process and providing them with the necessary access to ensure efficient and impactful access to remedy.” – amfori

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