A Wellington businesswoman is taking steps to end modern-day slavery by developing technology to track clothing from its point of origin to sale.
"There's about 16 million people that research indicates are in forced labour-type situations," said Samantha Jones, who is developing the tracking system, Origins.
"The garment industry unfortunately plays a big role in that. People inadvertently purchase products that they have no idea where they've come from and that may have traces of modern-day slavery incorporated into that supply chain."
The 28-year-old is the chief executive of Little Yellow Bird, a company she started when she saw a gap in the market for ethically made organic and fair-trade apparel.
Jones has secured $1.2 million funding for Origins, which she will "test run" on her own company before hopefully making the technology available to other brands.
Little Yellow Bird already tracks its own garments right back to where the materials are sourced from, but the process is mainly paper-based and is "clunky" and "complicated".
With Origins, people will be able to scan a code at the point of sale and receive the product's history, she said.
"We wanted to change the way the industry works to make it more transparent and open."
Consumers would be able to think about the brands they support, what type of system those brands were creating or contributing to, and make better choices with their money.
"We see every year more and more people getting on board and wanting to know more about where their products come from.
"I think people don't want to inadvertently buy products that have child labour or forced labour or are damaging to the environment, but at the moment often you can only go on what a brand is telling you or their social responsibility policies, which are often quite vague or not easily understandable."
Many brands did not know where their products were coming from either, she said.
Jones and her team will head to India in August to start work on the technology.
She hopes when Origins is ready it will eventually be used by many brands in a variety of industries, including clothing and coffee.
Jones, who worked as a supply chain manager in the military and spent time living in developing countries as a child, will use NEM blockchain technology to create Origins.
Hers is the second New Zealand business and she is the first woman globally to be funded through NEM's community funding proposal.