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The Mekong Club to raise international awareness of modern slavery through their annual Sweatshop Simulation Challenge as seen on CNN

The Mekong Club is a leading global nonprofit organization collaborating with the private sector to implement sustainable practices to eliminate modern slavery globally.


The Mekong Club will hold its annual Sweatshop Simulation Challenge – as seen on CNN – for private sector representatives, schools, and the public in January 2023 in Hong Kong. Participants will experience “forced labour” firsthand to help raise awareness about modern slavery and how it exists globally and to raise funding to end this global scourge. The Mekong Club’s CEO, Matt Friedman, will host this harrowing simulation that has powerfully impacted countless corporates and students over the years.


The International Labour Organization’s (ILO) recent report has estimated that partly due to the Pandemic 10 million more people have fallen victim to modern slavery in the last five years on top of the 40 million from the previous report, an alarming increase in the number of global victims that will only continue to rise if societies fail to work together on this issue.


The Mekong Club’s end-of-year awareness-raising activities aim to bring international awareness of modern slavery – forced labour, debt bondage and human trafficking – generates more than US$150 billion a year for criminals.


During the Sweatshop Challenge, participants will spend four consecutive hours performing a painfully repetitive action in the forced labour simulation – putting nuts on bolts and taking them off and on again and again. Participants will not be allowed to stop for food, water, or rest. If they do not perform quickly enough, they will be chastised and “punished”.


Before the simulation, participants will raise much needed funds to help end forced labour by asking their supporters to donate money for each hour they are able to endure in the Sweatshop Challenge. The Mekong Club encourages each participant’s coworkers, friends, and family to attend and support them.

Once the simulation has finished, participants will join a feedback session to reflect on their emotions during the challenge and what it would feel like to work 365 days a year under duress for no pay. Everyone is encouraged share their Sweatshop Challenge experience on social media using the hashtag #SweatshopChallenge to raise vital awareness.



Testimonials from participants in past Sweatshop Challenges


“It was an opportunity for me to help my child understand how important every small thing in life is. It is very difficult to know and to feel that pain while sitting here unless we go through it,” said Prisha Malhotra’s family, participated in a Sweatshop Challenge in 2021.


“I think we should take more care when we are buying items such as clothes and maybe invest in more sustainable and fair-trade items,” said Scarlet Casey, a previous participant in Sweatshop Challenge.


“To avoid more people being trafficked, we need to ensure that there is awareness-raising on the topic, prevention messages being offered, and systems and procedures developed to protect vulnerable people,” said Matt Friedman, CEO of The Mekong Club.


By hosting our Sweatshop Challenge, we hope to raise more global awareness of the issue and to collaborate with the private sector, schools and civil society groups to put an end to modern slavery.


Notes to editors:


About The Mekong Club

The Mekong Club is a nonprofit organization addressing modern slavery through a “business-to-business” approach. The Club, which bridges the public and private sectors, assists companies of all sizes globally in understanding the complexities of modern slavery and sharing best practices consistently. The Mekong Club collaborates with its members to develop innovative and strategic tools and projects to achieve a slave-free world.


Founded in 2012, The Mekong Club has scaled its business association with major global brands working together to address this hidden issue caused by criminals operating in company supply chains. The Club’s approach help brands understand the complexities of weeding out criminal activity by convening in industry-specific working groups, where members discuss modern slavery trends, challenges, share best-practice, and inform the Mekong Club’s work by requesting and contributing to anti-slavery tools and resources.


For press enquiries, please contact Caterina at

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The Mekong Club’s annual fundraising activities to raise global awareness on modern slavery through NFTs and Sweatshop Challenge for its 10-year anniversary.

The Mekong Club, a Hong Kong based nonprofit, works with the private sector to bring about sustainable practices against modern slavery across the globe.


20 September 2022, Hong Kong: The Mekong Club, a nonprofit organisation that works with the private sector to address modern slavery and related crimes, such as human trafficking and forced labour, has partnered with NMKR to launch Hong Kong’s first nonprofit-ran NFT fundraiser as part of its 10-year anniversary celebration.


The Mekong Club’s fundraiser aims to raise global awareness on the issue of modern slavery through digital art. It will also reflect the Club’s vision of a slave-free world whereby businesses collectively redefine how to approach social sustainability.


Ten volunteer designers from ten different countries and cultural backgrounds will come together in an information session hosted by The Mekong Club’s CEO, Matt Friedman. Matt will provide a creative brief on how modern slavery is impacting the world. Designers are asked to articulate through NFTs how they think the world would look if there was no slavery. The NFTs will be showcased and available for auction on 29 November for #CryptoGivingTuesday, a global crypto fundraising campaign for nonprofits.


Alongside the NFT awareness-building and fundraising efforts, The Mekong Club is also preparing for its annual Sweatshop Challenge, where corporate representatives, schools, and the public get a taste of what it is like to experience a sweatshop situation. Participants are challenged to spend four consecutive hours engaging in a repetitive action – putting nuts on bolts and taking them off. They will do this without food, water, or a break. If they do not perform fast enough, the organisers will scold them. This activity aims to help participants get a glimpse of what slavery would feel like 365 days a year. Through this event, The Mekong Club aims to raise broader awareness among attendees and encourage them to share their experiences online with the hashtag #SweatshopChallenge.


Matt Friedman, CEO of The Mekong Club, said: “To celebrate our 10-year anniversary, we want to recognise all the hard work of nonprofits and the United Nations working in the anti-trafficking field. Unfortunately, among all the nonprofits globally working on this issue and the United Nations combined, less than a quarter of one percent of the profits generated from criminal activity are being used to combat modern slavery. We hope that through this year’s fundraising activities, we can create a global awareness of the issue so we can collectively put an end to modern slavery.”


Notes to editors:

Matt Friedman, CEO of The Mekong Club, is a global expert on modern slavery and human trafficking. As an award-winning filmmaker, author and philanthropist, Matt regularly advises heads of governments and intelligence agencies. Matt is considered the leading catalyst of the anti-slavery movement in Asia’s business sector by captains of industry.


Founded in 2012, The Mekong Club works closely with the private sector to bring sustainable practices against modern slavery across the globe. The Mekong Club’s business association members include small, medium, and multinational brands across multiple industries globally. The Club regularly convenes these companies to discuss key trends, challenges, and opportunities for collaboration. The Mekong Club works confidentially with companies to understand where their anti-slavery strategies stand in relation to industry standards, sharing best practice and practical recommendations. Furthermore, The Mekong Club develops innovative tools based on the real-world insights from their members, and resources to further industry-wide responses to modern slavery trends and challenges.


The Mekong Club has been awarded three international awards, the Stop Slavery Innovation Award, Asia Gold Award, and USAID’s Evidence2Action Award. These awards were granted to The Mekong Club’s development of AppriseAudit, an app that helps identify potential victims of forced labour and improve workers’ interviews during social compliance audits. The technology harnesses to end modern slavery through working with brands’ global supply chains and supporting the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Develop Goals.


About NMKR

NMKR is the world’s leading brand to create a suite a tools that help companies, artists, developers, and self-starters develop blockchain products. NMKR’s strong focus on accessibility, has created a mix of easy-to-use development APIs and no-code building blocks, which can be combined in a modular way and bundled them into their core product NMKR Studio.


NMKR Studio operates on the Cardano blockchain, allowing the transaction fees to be as low as possible while having almost no environmental impact due to the Proof of Stake approach. The additional NMKR Studio service aims directly toward brands and companies to create a white label API solution by developing a branded NFT marketplace, trading platform, or launching a customized collection. NMKR Studio has currently minted more than 1 Million NFTs.


For press enquiries, please contact Caterina at

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The Mekong Club, in partnership with Mosaic develop a strategic partnership

The Mekong Club, in partnership with Mosaic develop a strategic partnership to provide up to date resources to prepare suppliers and brands for the mandatory requirement of HRDD across the European Union, Canada and the United States.

9 September 2022 , Hong Kong, San Francisco, USA


The Mekong Club, a nonprofit organization, working with the private sector to bring about sustainable practices against modern slavery across the globe, has partnered with Mosaic. This first stakeholder-informed knowledge management platform streamlines remediate and improve processes for suppliers and buyers to improve labor conditions in global supply chains. The partnership is to support expanding additional digital support resources that provide access to regional laws, mapped international labor standards, and are supplemented with localized improvement guidance.


Mosaic Responsible Supplier Resource (Mosaic RSR) is a first of its kind, SaaS knowledge management platform built to accelerate and scale supplier improvement. We map and infuse supplier Codes of Conduct (COCs) with country-specific legal requirements and then support factory remediation with localized, professional improvement recommendations and help desk. Beyond helping suppliers and their workers, our content allows companies to meet new EU and North American due diligence laws and respond to US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) enforcement trends. See the Mosaic intro video.


The partnership is an available platform to better prepare the private sector for audits and create more effective corrective action plans that support long-term improvement goals and align with the brand code of conduct. Through this partnership, Mekong Club members have access to the Mosaic platform, which provides a cornerstone solution to make compliance easier. By providing their members a rich and ever-growing knowledge hub The Mekong Club ensures it’s members have access to best practices, pragmatic and informed tools and other resources needed in the fight against modern slavery.


With new Human Rights Due Diligence (HRDD) Laws requiring meaningful remediation practices, program credibility is at stake. Our new partnership with Mosaic will help to prepare suppliers and brands for the mandatory requirement of HRDD across the European Union, Canada and the United States.


Leveraging the Mekong Club’s resources and strong stakeholder community related to the challenge of modern slavery, Mosaic will enhance the depth and quality of their content in order to help brands and suppliers improve their practices.


With our new partnership, access to the Mosaic RSR platform will be made available as part of Mekong Club’s membership dues. For all inquiries please contact:

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diginexAPPRISE in partnership with The Mekong Club to connect thousands of workers with international brands to improve supply chain transparency

diginexAPPRISE ensures that its international clients such as Decathlon and Li & Fung can hear directly from workers in their supply chain with the aim to improve working conditions and protect worker rights 

29 August 2022, Hong Kong: Diginex, the impact tech company helping to solve the world’s most pressing sustainability challenges, has taken on diginexAPPRISE. The worker voice tool was initially developed by the United Nations University Institute in Macau (UNU-IIST) in partnership with The Mekong Club – an organisation working with the private sector to bring about sustainable practices against modern slavery. 


diginexAPPRISE is a multilingual application that collects standardised, actionable data related to working conditions directly from workers in global supply chains. Through tailored question sets, companies can deploy surveys directly to workers in their supply chain on a variety of topics such as responsible recruitment, gender equality and pulse check living and working conditions. The innovative approach has been recognised as an effective toolkit for companies looking to enable and scale proactive worker-led due diligence. With at least 24.9 million people thought to be trapped in forced labour worldwide and millions more experiencing other exploitative working conditions, this application will help provide greater transparency across all sectors, to allow for targeted interventions.


diginexAPPRISE was developed in response to significant challenges faced during social audits, such as language barriers, a lack of privacy, and a lack of coverage of key social indicators – particularly to identify forced labour. diginexAPPRISE allows companies and frontline responders to interview workers anonymously and remotely through technology in their native language to ensure that organisations treat people fairly and respectfully. 


The data collected increases transparency in organisations and reduces the chances of those raising concerns being identified, minimizing the risk of retaliation. The application – which is open source and integrated into diginex’s due diligence platform, diginexLUMEN – has already scaled to more than 50,000 workers across 15 countries. diginex’s upgrading of the tool  and its subsequent integration into diginexLUMEN has unlocked opportunities to extend its reach exponentially.  Since the takeover, diginexAPPRISE has been able to scale significantly and expand its capabilities by capitalising on diginex’s pioneering technology and international clients. It is already in use with some of the world’s largest companies and in some of the most complex global supply chains, such as Li & Fung.


Mark Blick, CEO, diginex says: “Companies are realising that people-led due diligence tools that enable individuals to share their experiences provide the best insight into actual working conditions on the ground. Our work with The Mekong Club is helping to overcome – and eliminate – unethical behaviour and ensure workers’ rights are respected around the world. Through diginexAPPRISE, organisations will be able to align their approaches with emerging laws, including the German Supply Chain Act and the upcoming EU Directive on corporate sustainability due diligence.”


Matt Friedman, CEO, The Mekong Club said: “Now and then a technical application comes along that really adds value to our ability to collect and analyse essential information.  The Apprise App is an example of this. It is a highly effective tool to identify supply chain risk. The Mekong Club is thrilled to be partnering with diginex, a proven leader in technology solutions.”


Notes to editors: 


About diginex 


diginex is a disruptive impact tech business helping organisations to address the world’s most pressing sustainability issues, utilising the latest blockchain technology to lead change and increase transparency.


diginex’s frontier-pushing SaaS products are used by both companies and governments to tackle challenges including supply chain management, labour rights, due diligence, and corporate environmental responsibility. Its technology provides businesses who want to do better with the tools that both help them be more responsible, and realise the commercial benefits of ESG, including greater efficiency, reduced corporate risk, and increased ability to attract and secure investment. By using its technology to understand the impact of their operations, organisations can future-proof their business models and accelerate growth, while contributing to a better future.


Founded in 2017, with a global team of over 80 technology and impact experts, diginex is scaling rapidly and is a technology partner to major players around the world including The Coca-Cola Company, Reckitt, the US government and Fitch Ratings. Its products and platforms stand out as a new approach in the consulting-heavy world of sustainability, with a focus on using the latest innovations such as blockchain and AI to collect and validate data and, in the process, make ESG more affordable and accessible for companies of all sizes.

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A ‘moon goal’ for modern slavery

A ‘moon goal’ for modern slavery

Mekong Club-led initiative challenges private sector to eliminate forced labour from supply chains by 2030

The Mekong Club, Research and Communications Group (RCG) and Ashbury Communications today launched a new paper that challenges the private sector to eliminate forced labour from its  supply chains by 2030 – and sets out a roadmap for realising this goal without a negative effect on  companies’ profitability. The announcement coincides with CNN’s #MyFreedomDay, a global,  student-driven event that raises awareness about modern slavery. 

“We know that great things can be accomplished when people are drawn together by a common  vision,” said Matt Friedman, CEO of the Mekong Club. “Like the U.S. space programme before it set  the goal of putting a man on the moon, our response to modern slavery today is fragmented and often  inefficient. A large number of highly committed people are working without a common vision and there  is limited evidence of effective progress. We believe that establishing a highly ambitious – yet  achievable – goal for ending modern slavery will bring together these disparate efforts and free  millions of people from exploitative labour practices, while not forcing business to choose between  what is right, what is sustainable and what is profitable.” 

A way forward 

As well as establishing the 2030 goal, the paper also sets out a roadmap for the private sector to use  in eliminating an estimated 16 million modern slaves from its supplier networks. This approach is  based on five core components, each of which has clearly defined targets. 

  1. Build a clear and common understanding of modern slavery and why business must respond 
  2. Equip counter-slavery actors with the information they need to act effectively, efficiently and  decisively against modern slavery 
  3. Establish multi-stakeholder monitoring, feedback and remedy systems to identify, address  and prevent further labour violations 
  4. Enhance the value of social audit processes through improvement and integration
  5. Support ethical migrant worker recruitment solutions 

The Mekong Club, a Hong Kong-based non-profit that engages the private sector in the fight against  modern slavery, will facilitate these processes. Based on feedback from the private sector, the  Mekong Club also hopes to work with the private sector to collectively develop a set of Principles that  support the 2030 goal.

Modern slavery is an ESG factor 

The paper, COVID, ESG and Going to the Moon: How Business Can Unite to Eliminate Forced  Labour, highlights how companies’ efforts to eliminate modern slavery from their supply chains will be  seen as increasingly important by the growing number of institutions investing in accordance with  Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) principles. The paper argues that the way that a company addresses ESG issues – including the risk of forced labour among its suppliers – has  already become a key factor in determining its access to capital, customers and talent. 

“Every ESG investor should be taking forced labour into account,” said Adam Harper, Managing  Director of Ashbury. “As ESG becomes the dominant investment theme of our times, shareholders will  expect companies to rapidly improve disclosure and action on the full spectrum of environmental and  social issues. For climate change, there’s the Paris Agreement, national net-zero targets and a  number of frameworks to help corporates and investors achieve them. For the first time, we are  proposing an equivalent goal for ending forced labour – and a practical methodology to help move  towards that goal.” 

Towards more standardised reporting  

Sustainable investing has built up astonishing momentum over the last decade. According to research  firm Opimas, the value of global assets applying ESG data to drive investment decisions has almost  doubled over four years, and more than tripled over eight years, reaching US$40.5 trillion in 2020.iIn  2020, ESG funds attracted a record US$347bn of inflows, with 700 new funds being launched.ii 

However, the Social component of ESG is widely considered to be the most challenging of the three  components to measure. There are at present no standardised criteria or quantitative indicators for  measuring social factors relating to modern slavery. The Mekong Club, RCG and Ashbury hope this  initiative will enable companies to provide their investors and other stakeholders with more useful and  consistent data about how they are addressing the risk of forced labour in their supply chains. 

Pandemic effect 

While sustainable investing has thrived during the pandemic, Covid-19 has also highlighted the  vulnerability of the world’s poorest people as it caused the worst recession since the Great  Depression. With global GDP expected to contract by 4.4% in 2020, the United Nations has warned  that more than 200 million people could be pushed into extreme poverty by 2030.iii iv 

This economic situation clearly puts more people at risk of modern slavery, yet efforts to help the  estimated 40 million already trapped in forced labour have proved to be inadequate: it appears that  only around 0.2% are receiving assistance. Phil Marshall, Director of Private Sector Engagement at  the Research and Communications Group explained that: “The frustrating thing for me is that we  actually know why many of these victims are not being identified. But it’s an opportunity also because  we have some great examples of how we could help a lot more people, if we all committed to making  this a priority.” 

About the Mekong Club 

The Mekong Club is one of the first not-for-profit organisations of its kind in Asia to use a ‘business-to business’ approach to fight modern slavery. Bridging the gap between the public and private sectors, the Mekong Club helps companies of all sizes to understand the complexities of modern slavery and  to reduce their vulnerability within their supply chains/business environment. Together with business  partners, the Mekong Club is spearheading innovative and strategic projects to achieve a slave-free  world. 

About Research and Communications Group (RCG) 

The Research and Communications Group is a small, specialised consultancy company committed to  improving social development outcomes. RCG’s private sector engagement programme brings  together professionals with experience in counter-trafficking, manufacturing, auditing, and migration  research to help organisations implement practical, timely solutions to labour issues within their  supply chains, grounded in an in-depth understanding of the realities faced by migrant and non migrant workers.

About Ashbury Communications 

Ashbury is an Asia-focused and content-led strategic communications consultancy that is driven by the future of finance. We exist to build and protect our clients’ reputations through strategic advice and outstanding content based on deep experience in the region and the financial sector. Ashbury was built on the conviction that original content creation and strategic advice should be fully integrated in corporate communications, disrupting traditional agency models that often separate two disciplines that should rightly inform and shape each other. 

Our clients are global banks, insurers, asset managers, industry bodies and fintechs active in Asia Pacific. We have a distinctive expertise in two areas that will drive the future of finance: Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) and technology.