In the days leading up to Valentine’s Day, many stores are reminding us that it’s time to shop for gifts for the people we love. Unfortunately, many of these traditional tokens of love may be made with modern slavery:
- Chocolate may be tainted with child labor in the cocoa fields of West Africa;1
- Flowers like roses, tulips and orchids can come from fields where children and women work up to 20 hours a day for little or no pay;2
- Gold may be mined by men, women and children in the most dangerous of conditions – and, in the case of conflict mines in the DRC, often at gunpoint;3
- Gemstones like diamonds and rubies are often mined by slaves and can also end up polished and cut by children who sustain horrific injuries from working with gem-cutting tools and machinery;4;
- Even the most innocent-looking plush toy may be produced in factories employing slave labour using cotton that may have been harvested by people forced to work as slaves.5
This year, consumers are expected to spend $19 billion in Valentine’s Day shopping 6 – it’s appalling to think that any of that money may be going towards an industry that deprives people of their dignity and freedom.
In the next few days, companies will be paying attention to questions and concerns raised during one of the top sales seasons of the year. Let’s make sure one of those questions is “What are you doing to make sure there is no slavery in your products?”
If enough people speak up and ask their favourite stores to ensure their products are free of modern slavery, companies will feel consumer pressure to audit and act on forced labour in their supply chains.
Ask stores you plan to visit for Valentine’s Day (or for any day this year) that you expect them to sell products free of modern slavery.
- http://thecnnfreedomproject.blogs.cnn.com/2012/01/19/slavery-in-cocoa-fields-a-horrible-normal ↩
- http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/02/theres-a-1-in-12-chance-your-v-day-flowers-were-cut-by-child-laborers/253084/ ↩
- http://www.raisehopeforcongo.org/content/initiatives/conflict-minerals ↩
- http://campaign.worldvision.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/7185_DTL_Factsheet_Jewellery_LR.pdf ↩
- http://www.cottoncampaign.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/2013CottonHarvest_end_report.pdf ↩
- http://www.marketwatch.com/story/valentines-shoppers-will-spend-more-in-2014-and-save-more-with-cash-back-from-fatwallet-2014-01-29 ↩