Corporate Network Mapping: ChainReact
Supplier networks touch virtually every corner of the globe. While everyone is familiar with some of these companies, the network itself is largely invisible. Purchasing a device in Madrid can indirectly perpetuate debt slavery in Multan. Unless the supplier network connecting the two is made visible, the purchaser has no way to react to the supply chain’s problems. So long as public data on corporate supplier networks remain poor and scarce, stakeholders are powerless to remedy the networks’ faults.
ChainReact is an effort to make supplier networks transparent, understandable, and responsive, so that companies and their stakeholders can see, react to, and ultimately transform corporate network impacts. The main objectives of the project are:
- Identify irresponsible corporate activity
- Connect issues at corporate networks’ edges to network drivers
- Incentivize companies to address the issues
As a key partner in ChainReact, WikiRate serves as a research partner, and the WikiRate.org platform as a central database for mapping corporate relationships and making connections between important impacts of corporate practices along the chain.
Corporate Ownership Mapping
The first major mapping effort was the integration between the WikiRate and OpenCorporates platforms, using the OpenCorporates API. Through this integration, basic registration data from companies is now captured on the WikiRate platform. Mapping these legal entities (OpenCorporates companies) to reporting entities (WikiRate companies) in turn made it possible to tie reporting entities to their legal subsidiaries and parent companies, thus beginning to map corporate ownership networks.
Supply Chain Mapping
Following the Transparency Pledge Coalition’s campaigning efforts in 2016, WikiRate and CERTH began extracting relationship data from the supplier disclosures published by apparel companies.
In order to collect relationship data, CERTH developed an open source PDF table extractor tool that made it possible to scrape the contents of pdf tables. WikiRate further developed its import tool and API to allow automated and semi-automated integrations with data from OpenCorporates, and imports and updates of datasets from additional sources.
Once the tool had been refined, CERTH then went on to scrape the lists of smelters and refiners published by companies in their SEC filings, in compliance with section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act. Additional sources are being reviewed for usefulness, such as export-import records as a proxy for supplier relations.
To date more than 13,000 relationships between suppliers and companies sourcing from them, have been mapped and made accessible through WikiRate.org and the CCC factory-brand search tool.
This project has also included investor relations, mapping investees to their investors primarily as a pilot effort thus far. Data seems to be more dispersed than other relationship data, and sometimes proprietary. We are currently considering different extraction techniques.
Data from the Ground Up
A new informer platform (The Whistle) will help advocacy groups manage campaigns to solicit flexible bottom-up reports about corporate behaviour.
ChainReact partner, The Whistle, is an established human rights whistle-blowing tool, adaptable to varied contexts and needs of its users. Its first use cases have been a campaign soliciting reports about instances of sexual assault in Nigeria in partnership with Global Rights Nigeria; volunteer-driven verification of reports together with Amnesty International's Digital Verification Corps; and the End Everyday Racism campaign at Cambridge University.
While the above campaigns do not relate to coporate behavior, The Whistle's potential for use as a tool for workers to report violations safely, is key to ChainReact and WikiRate. The first corporate-relevant campaign is poised to launch in 2019, supporting workers in the garment sector in the UK and Bangladesh. Anonymous report data from supply chain workers will, at aggregate, be integrated into the WikiRate database, and associated with existing corporate network data.