Clear Voice Hotline Service
Clear Voice begins as a communication channel that all parties can trust, providing opportunities for workers to anonymously report concerns.
The hotline’s purpose is to support effective grievance mechanisms by providing information to factory and farm managers, giving them an opportunity to resolve small problems before they become bigger ones. Clear Voice is a project of The Cahn Group.
Clear Voice Projects and Advisory Services
Clear Voice specializes in the design of hotline and grievance handling services that are tailored to meet individual company needs in keeping with global best practice. A list of current or completed projects is listed below.
Worker Call/Text Intake
Clear Voice representatives respond to text or voice messages from workers by receiving complaint information and preparing reports. Reports are filed with factory or buyer per agreed-upon protocols. Clear Voice communicates response from factories or buyers back to workers whenever possible.
After Clear Voice files a complaint report with factory management, Clear Voice representatives obtain initial response. If facts in a case are in dispute, Clear Voice gathers additional information related to the complaint from all relevant parties. Clear Voice representatives analyze the facts in the case and provide recommendations for resolution of the complaint.
Grievance Mediation Service
After facts are established through the investigation process, Clear Voice representatives seek to find a mutually agreeable solution between management and the worker who complained by mediating between the parties.
Monthly and annual summary reports of Clear Voice activities are prepared and delivered using standard templates. The reports are distributed in accordance with agreed-upon protocols.
Management Orientation Training
Orientations about Clear Voice designed for managers include training on Clear Voice protocols and introduction to principles of effective grievance mechanisms.
Orientations about Clear Voice designed for workers include short, in-factory training for workers, typically in small groups, during the lunch or other break period and include: a) purpose of Clear Voice, b) how to use Clear Voice and c) what to expect after contacting Clear Voice.
The purpose of non-retaliation calls is to provide brands and retailers with the information they need to ensure the integrity of worker interviews that take place during factory audits and to provide the information the brand or retailer needs to discuss any violations of its non-retaliation policy with factory management.
To begin, the brand or retailer receives a list of names and phone numbers of workers interviewed during factory audits from auditors (internal or external). These workers have been told by the auditors that they may be called by Clear Voice to learn if there have been any negative repercussions as a result of the worker interview.
The brand or retailer forwards the interview lists to Clear Voice. Clear Voice then calls the interviewed workers and, using a set questionnaire, determines whether any harassment, intimidation, penalty or other form of retaliation has been levied against the workers.
The calls are made several weeks after the audit takes place. The results of the interviews with workers are carefully captured in a report template. Workers who report retaliation are noted as "red flags" and are called out in the report for ready access.
Completed or ongoing Clear Voice projects
Support for the development of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
Following his participation in stakeholder meetings convened by John Ruggie, then Special Representative to the UN Secretary General, Cahn was asked to help test the draft principles for effective grievance mechanisms.
As a result, he facilitated pilot projects in the fruit-growing region of South Africa’s Western Cape (Tesco supply chain) and in a garment factory outside of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (Esquel manufacturer). Modifications to the principles that resulted from the pilot project were later adopted by the UN.
Support for a Model Grievance Mechanism in China
Working closely with Beijing-based Social Resources Institute in 2012 and 2013, Cahn supported a cutting-edge project to design a model grievance mechanism for the Chinese apparel sector.
Cahn was brought into the project by the project funder, the Great Britain China Centre. As a content expert, he helped the Social Resources Institute explore ways the broad principles of effective grievance mechanisms could be made relevant to the practical world of Chinese apparel manufacturers.
Developing Grievance Mechanisms in the United States
After serving as a content expert to a multi-stakeholder committee of government, companies, trade unions, social investors and other interested parties in 2012, Cahn provided support to a buyer of agricultural products in North Carolina and Kentucky. The first step in this process of building an effective grievance mechanism was to launch a referral line for farm laborers who seek assistance with employment or personal concerns in the summer of 2014.
Building a Global Approach to Grievance Mechanisms in Supply Chains
Beginning with the establishment of a hotline and peer group training for factory workers in Bangladesh, The Cahn Group supported the efforts of a large European retailer to create effective grievance mechanisms in the company’s global supply chain. Baseline data was established through focus group discussions outside the factory, brief surveys using two-way mobile technology and through online surveys of factory managers.
Complaints Handling Guidance for Asia Development Bank Projects
At the request of the Asia Development Bank, Cahn developed a guidance note to help the bank and its clients understand the bank’s heightened expectations related to grievance handling procedures in the bank’s many large infrastructure projects.
Helpline Initiative for Bangladeshi Workers
Clear Voice, a project of The Cahn Group was selected to provide Helpline services to the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety. To perform this work, Cahn spearheads a unique collaboration that includes Good World Solutions and Phulki. Workers use mobile phones to report safety and other concerns to the Helpline or Amader Kotha in Bangla, as well as respond to simple, mobile-based surveys.
The collected information is then shared with and validated by factory managers, and any serious safety concerns are verified by qualified technical experts. In the event that action is necessary, factories respond to the issues raised by workers. The result is a communication channel that improves factories’ awareness of safety and other worker issues, and can be used to boost worker morale. Cahn hopes the project can grow to support other initiatives in Bangladesh as well.