What we do
ChainReact is about collaboratively generating, mapping, interpreting, and activating information about corporate networks and their impacts on society and the environment. The network approach is vital because without understanding the complex relationships involved in global supply chains, stakeholders cannot hold the companies they know accountable for the abuses – or the advances – of the many dependent companies they fuel. The greatest challenge to making corporate networks sustainable is that at present they are largely hidden. Even the most concerned companies and their stakeholders (investors, employees, customers) have limited understanding of their network’s extended footprint in the world.
The fog of complex networks means small companies in remote jurisdictions can pollute and dump and abuse and neglect with the implicit support of indirect funding from companies further up the chain who may not even know they exist. This ugly pattern is clearly a problem for our society and environment, but it can also damage companies’ bottom lines. Without clear visibility of what happens throughout their supply chain, the companies and their stakeholders are at increased reputational and legal risk, as scandals such as Rana Plaza fire have shown. For the fog to clear, it is not enough to make corporate networks visible; they must also be made understandable. Comprehensibility, too, is challenging because corporate networks are complex and can weave together control networks (ownership, governance, etc), brand networks (franchises, consortia, etc.) and supplier networks (material providers, service providers, etc). Untangling these blends together data challenges, interface challenges, and, in places, philosophical challenges.
There is also a chicken-and-egg quality to the challenge of making corporate networks sustainable. On the one hand, there is often little incentive to gather data about the smaller companies at supplier networks’ edges, because the data are seen as worthless unless connected to brands familiar to western markets, and that requires network maps. But those who begin to work on network maps find that they are generally making connections between more and more companies about which there is very little data.
Here is the deep value of ChainReact: by bringing together a savvy consortium to focus on three platforms at once, we can much more efficiently tackle a multi-faceted challenge that would defy a more piecemeal approach.
Our social impact
At present, a person who witnesses or directly suffers from irresponsible corporate activity has no simple, obvious place to go to report what has happened. Thousands of government agencies and non-profits accept reports of different kinds; this causes an issue because people with something to report about a particular issue are often unaware that there is a specific place for them to report about that issue. Given that the proportion of the population with something to report about a specific issue is small, and the visibility of most issue-specific reporting platforms is low - these challenges often ensure that either (a) no reporting happens at all, or (b) nothing comes of the report because the platform it was submitted to has not acquired critical mass.
The Whistle platform has been conceived as a means to address each problem respectively by (a) making it simple to report, (b) making it easy for advocacy groups to begin collecting reports (without the necessity of developing their own platform), (c) establishing a platform which people are aware of as a place to ‘inform’ generally, and (d) creating mechanisms to use the reports to effect change.