AndWider, a worker engagement company, announced that it has raised EUR 598,000 in equity funding, surpassing its fundraising goal, with the help of ClearlySo, an Europe’s impact investment bank. The funding will be spent on scaling technology and bringing software development in-house as well as expanding support and sales teams.
According to the 2018 Global Slavery Index, there is an estimated 40.3 million people in modern slavery. Although there has been a rise in consumer awareness about the true cost of the products they purchase online and on the high street in recent years, most consumers are still fundamentally unaware of the working conditions of those who make, pick and pack what they wear, and eat and use on an everyday basis. There are also increasing legal and reputational risks, and brands are facing growing pressure to do more to improve transparency within their supply chains.
AndWider, which is specialised in offering its clients clarity on working conditions alongside support to drive improvements where needed, has developed a technological solution, called ENGAGE, which enables workers, including the most vulnerable, to report regularly, directly, and anonymously on working conditions and wellbeing via mobile phones. It alerts clients when issues are reported and also helps buyers, intermediaries, suppliers and social auditors support and drive measurable improvements in conditions.
Lea Esterhuizen, founder of AndWider, commented: “We are a company focused on listening and harnessing the benefits of listening – for the worker, for their employer, the supplier, and for all those downstream including buyers. This investment round enables us to build the muscle where we need it most, to penetrate new geographies and sectors such that we can continue to provide this insight and support to new groups of businesses in sectors that are under huge pressure. We are very excited about the calibre of investors that have chosen to join the AndWider tribe to drive more impact. A special thanks goes to ClearlySo, to Letty Wheeler and Rodney Schwartz, for introducing us to five UK investors who we really look forward to working alongside as we scale our impact and our business.”
Likewise, ENGAGE, while providing insights to a range of parties, prioritises the needs of the supplier along global supply chains, given that the supplier (the employer) remains the driver of change in the lives of workers. And improving working conditions is increasingly understood by suppliers as an important means of developing more resilient businesses in the face of growing competition and worsening labour shortages. ENGAGE is also unusual in its emphasis on progress and what the supplier has achieved over time.
Letty Wheeler, investment manager at ClearlySo, commented: “Supply chain ethics and transparency are increasingly important issues from both a consumer and regulatory standpoint. AndWider has developed a hugely impactful, scalable and data-driven solution that gives every worker a voice. It was an absolute pleasure working with Lea and her team, and to support them in their mission to improve the lives of individual workers all over the world.”