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May 8 2023 Sheila O’Hearn

Featured Member: REES Technology

A team of four discuss ideas on a computer monitor, with sticky notes on the wall in the background.

According to the General Social Survey 2014, only five per cent of sexual assaults are reported annually to police, a percentage that has changed little from year to year. The reasons are complex, but a 2018 report from Statistics Canada sheds some light: “One in five victims of sexual assault—both women and men—felt blamed for their own victimization.

The need for increased public awareness, education and survivor protection from gender-based crimes roused founder and CEO Mary Lobson to take action with the inception of REES Technology, a social-purpose company that has developed an innovative, simple-to-use online platform to reduce barriers to reporting sexual violence. The technology allows for multiple pathway reporting options for individuals to come forward, including those who wish to remain anonymous.

Survivor-centered and trauma-informed platform

The platform not only empowers survivors, but also helps to deter and mitigate sexual violence in places where groups of people gather.

“It is completely tailored to the needs of survivors,” says Lobson. “We’re mindful of privacy and data security. The records users create are encrypted—we and our partners can’t access them. We also don’t use third-party tracking, such as Google Analytics or cookies. Based on our broad consultation and collaboration prior to making the platform, we developed a web-based application.”

University campuses across North America were the first locations for the technology and it has been adapted to serve corporate sports and music festival sectors as well. “Our aim is to be a centralized reporting and information hub. The platform can be used in any industry,” she says.

REES: Respect, Educate, Empower Survivors

REES’s acronym is aptly chosen. The platform not only provides innovative and safe spaces for survivors to share their stories, “but also it gives agency, access and opportunities for action in their communities, on campus and at work,” says Lobson. Users are navigated to essential information about reporting options, resources and support throughout Canada and the U.S.

Launched in September 2020, the platform has already grown in use. REES has since been adapted by the corporate sector to include reporting options for bullying, abuse, harassment and discrimination, plus ethics, integrity and compliance issues, such as theft, bribery, fraud and other corporate crimes. “As we expand the platform’s uses, we know that technology needs to evolve continually,” she says. “We really value our partnerships and the feedback and insights we’re gathering as we acquire new users and additional uses for the platform.”

Anonymous reporting valuable for safer workplaces

Among the multiple reporting pathways, the anonymous report still allows users to share valuable information with their company. From the records that users release from sexual violence to discrimination, customized summary reports can be generated to employers in a way that is meaningful to their workplace.

Even though anonymous reports aren’t actionable, employers are made aware of an uncomfortable or unsafe environment.

“The employer who has the ability to access the information can use it to inform their prevention initiatives, maybe address training gaps for employees and managers, or update or make new policies to ensure a code of conduct related to respectful workplaces, which includes diversity, equity and inclusion,” says Lobson. “The reporting data can also help mitigate risks and losses associated with negative work-related issues—issues that have financial impacts on employee performance, transition and turnover. You can only have inclusive spaces if you have safe spaces, and REES promotes that.”

Calgary: the centre of industry leadership

Lobson grew up in Calgary and moved to Winnipeg in the mid-1980s. The city’s startup ecosystem lured her back with an idea to improve quality of life through technology. In fact, Lobson was chosen as a participant in CDL-Rockies and was selected in 2021 as a Canadian Venture by Coralus, (then SheEO).

It was announced just last week that REES Technologies Inc. is a graduate of the CDL-Rockies Prime Stream. Only 40 per cent of companies graduate from the program and Lobson's team is proud of this accomplishment. “As a participant in CDL-Rockies, it’s been amazing to come home to be supported by leaders from across the business community.”

Lobson also notes that many corporations, such as oil and gas industries, use environmental, social and governance (ESG) measurements that focus primarily on sustainable and ethical impacts. Lobson, however, would like to see psychological safety factored into ESGs as well.

“We feel opportunities exist to adapt REES around the ESGs beyond workplace physical harm,” she says. “The work we’re doing isn’t really identified with the ESGs but our work is crucial to the experience of employees, their level and quality of engagement.”

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