What are the challenges?
Right now, there are many reasons why it is not easy to buy slavery-free.
Firstly, many different workers around the world have contributed to getting that final product to you. Just think about the device you’re reading this on: there are the miners who dug out the precious metals and the factory workers who made the components, not to mention those that assembled, packaged, transported, and distributed the final product.
Furthermore, retailers haven’t always looked into their supply chain all the way to its origin to understand all of the workers involved. Many supply chains are long and complex, involving many different countries and companies over whom the retailer might have little influence.
Sometimes, if one of these suppliers is asked to fulfill an order that it does not have the capacity to meet, it may subcontract part of that work to another company without the purchasing company’s knowledge. Whilst businesses must take responsibility for the conditions of subcontracted work, customers must also consider the impact of their purchasing practices on the ability of that supplier to ensure that workers’ rights are respected.
Despite these challenges, if a company can ensure the quality of a product it offers, it should also be able to ensure the working conditions for those involved in its production. That’s why we are encouraging companies to take action to ensure slavery is not a part of their supply chain.
How can I buy slavery-free products?
We look forward to a future when you can have confidence that the products and services you buy are slavery-free. Until then, you can ask questions when you shop. Does your local retailer stock fairly traded products? Do they know how the goods you are buying were produced? Is there a certification scheme that has checked the production process, and does it include labor standards?
If you are eating at a restaurant or staying in a hotel, you could ask if the managers directly employ the workers, and if they are familiar with their terms and conditions. You could write to the company headquarters asking what measures it is taking to identify, prevent and end the use of modern slavery in their business. You can also check out this guide from Ethical Consumer for more information.
What are we doing?
In December 2020, we launched a new campaign calling for companies to be held responsible for modern slavery in their supply chains.
In partnership with the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable, the CORE Coalition, and Street Art for Mankind, we are urging governments and legislative bodies including the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union to enact mandatory human rights due diligence legislation. These laws would require companies to enact preventative measures, conduct robust risk analyses, and face punishments for failing to prevent all human rights violations—including human trafficking and forced labor—in their supply chains.
Fight for slavery-free goods and join the campaign today.