Mobile phone surveys aim to improve ethics in toy supply chain

An initiative is using mobile technology to enable direct feedback from toy factory workers in China.

The Ethical Toy Program (ETP) is working with MicroBenefits, which specialises in using technology to foster employee engagement, to make the sharing and collection of direct feedback on workplace conditions in the toy supply chain easier.

Under the scheme, workers at 50 different toy factories in China will be issued with a feedback code to their mobile phones and asked five or six questions regarding workplace conditions.

“Not only are mobile devices convenient, but workers are also extremely comfortable using them and feel confident sharing information in this way,” said ETP.

Workplace culture, fear of retribution or poor communication processes can make obtaining direct feedback from workers difficult. 

However, mobile devices connected to the internet are “ubiquitous” in China and can be leveraged to create a “worker voice” platform, creating an effective way to reach a digital generation of workers.

ETP said it had received funding from The Walt Disney Company for the pilot, which will use MicroBenefits’ mobile-based worker voice technology platform to deploy surveys in factories, improve communication, strengthen grievance channels, deploy targeted digital learning and gather other data on working conditions. 

“This new process will work in the same way as current worker interviews but at much larger scale. Survey data will be used to validate audit findings and strengthen audit integrity,” said ETP.

Data will also be gathered on workers’ needs, concerns and insights on specific issues in the workplace. These insights will inform the ongoing development of the programme’s assessments, capability building, and worker well-being initiatives.

 “Improving workers’ lives at factories starts with understanding their needs,” said Carmel Giblin, CEO and president of ETP.

Separately, firms in China are using devices concealed in safety helmets or uniform hats to monitor the wearer’s brainwaves and stream data to computers that can detect emotional spikes such as depression, anxiety or rage, according to the South China Morning Post.

Hangzhou Zhongheng Electric and Zhejiang Electric Power were cited as companies where the technology was in use. An official at Zhejiang Electric Power reportedly said it had boosted company profits by around $315m since it was introduced in 2014.

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