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CALIFORNIA – The C&A Foundation is backing a new early stage venture fund which will invest in apparel supply chain innovations. The US$23m fund, set up by Humanity United, has also secured financial backing from the Walmart Foundation, Stardust Equity, Open Society Foundations, The Ray and Dagmar Dolby Family Fund, and The Walt Disney Company.

The fund, entitled ‘Working Capital’, aims to accelerate supply chain innovations to enable corporations to operate more transparently and ethically. It was founded by Humanity United, a foundation that is part of The Omidyar Group, which represents the philanthropic, personal, and professional interests of the Omidyar family.

The Fund focuses on product traceability, worker engagement, sourcing platforms, risk assessment, and ethical recruiting tools by investing in emerging technologies such as blockchain, machine learning, artificial intelligence, digital identity and Internet of Things (IoT) solutions.

Working Capital includes US$23m in funding. Investment partners contributed US$19.5m and the UK’s Department for International Development contributed £2.5 million in ‘sidecar’ grant funding.

“We see an opportunity to invest in emerging solutions that will meet the demands of large multinational corporations while also benefiting millions of vulnerable workers at the bottom of the economic pyramid,” said Ed Marcum, managing director of Working Capital.

Led by a team from Humanity United, the Fund has already invested in promising portfolio companies, including Provenance, a technology platform that uses blockchain to enable brands, suppliers, and stakeholders to trace products along their journey from producer to consumer; and Ulula, a software and data analytics platform that allows organisations to engage with workers in real time to measure and monitor labour-related risks.

“Our aim is to use our strengths in collaboration with others to transform the supply chain systems we rely on, and we are proud to be part of the Working Capital group of partners,” said Kathleen McLaughlin, president of the Walmart Foundation. “We believe in solutions that benefit everyone – from the workers who make the products to the consumers who purchase them, creating a shared value for business and society.”

“C&A Foundation is proud to be an anchor investor in the Working Capital Fund. This unique partnership furthers our goal to end the worst forms of labour exploitation in the apparel industry, and promote accountability through innovative solutions and collaboration with industry players,” said Brandee Butler, head of gender justice and human rights at the C&A Foundation. “We believe that gender justice is fundamental to improve conditions for workers and support the Fund’s commitment to gender lens investing to improve outcomes for women, and economic returns for investors.”

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