Conscious Consumerism Call To Action
Equity is one of our core values at Free To Shine. We do not contribute to any exploitation or inequity. For example, our fundraising chocolates are fairtrade and our running singlets are from ethical clothing brands. We believe strongly in ethical consumerism and in the difference one individual or small group of people can make in the fight against human trafficking.
Today, human trafficking and forced labour are commonly framed by anti-trafficking activists as being rooted in the criminal activity of lawless individuals and networks. Trafficking is depicted as something that can be solved by tightening laws and punishing perpetrators. Unfortunately, there are many gaps in modern laws on slavery including but not limited to mandatory reporting and adequate monitoring of all levels of operations within a corporation.1 Furthermore, taking the criminal justice approach only addresses one small component of human trafficking and forced labour, and does not tackle the root causes that pave the wave for exploitation and abuse to occur in the first place, such as business practices and national labour laws.2
Consumers have a voice and an opportunity to change this. Being a conscious consumer means being informed about the origin of your purchases and making intentional decisions about which companies you choose to support. Your choice of t-shirt brand may seem insignificant, but consumer choices have the power to sway large corporations and encourage governments to hold businesses accountable to uphold fair labor standards.
According to research, in working environments where labour rights violations such as the denial of benefits, unfair pay, and denial of collective bargaining occur, more serious situations of exploitation and trafficking often arise.3 A more comprehensive understanding of human trafficking requires that we see it not as random occurrences, but as being “positioned at one end of a continuum of work standards that range from decent work through to minor labor standards violations all the way to extreme exploitation and are driven by many of the same dynamics and drivers.”4
The focus of businesses cannot be just on reporting high-level instances of human trafficking in their supply chain, they must put more effort into rooting out low-level exploitative labour practices from ever happening in the first place. This also means being aware of how certain populations, such as women and girls, are more vulnerable to exploitation (more than 70% of modern slavery victims are women) and adopting gender-aware practices in their anti-trafficking measures.5
Reports and tools like the Fashion Transparency Index and the Open Apparel Registry (OAR) are great ways to promote more transparency within the supply chains of big corporations within the fashion industry. OAR is an open source tool funded by the C&A Foundation which maps garment facilities worldwide with the goal of becoming the main source for “identifying all global apparel facilities and their affiliations by collating disparate supplier lists from industry stakeholders into one central, open source map and database.”6 The 2019 Fashion Transparency Index offers insight into what information the world's 200 biggest fashion companies and retailers are disclosing about their business practices and how they are upholiding the International Labour Organization's Decent Work agenda through their buying strategies. Check out page 26 of the Index to see how the fashion brands you support measure up.
Resources like the OAR are critical tools to allow consumers to be conscious in their purchasing choices and take a stand against modern day slavery and human trafficking.
1 FULL DISCLOSURE: Towards Better Modern Slavery Report (March 2019). https://static1.squarespace.com/static/583f3fca725e25fcd45aa446/t/5c9aee46085229887ba8f773/1553657415304/ICAR+Full+Disclosure+Report_Final.pdf
2 Ergon & Ethical Trading Initiative, Managing Risks Associated with Modern Slavery: A Good Practice Note for the Private Sector (Dec. 3, 2018), https://www.ethicaltrade.org/sites/default/files/shared_resources/Managing%20risks%20associated%20with%20modern%20slavery.pdf; Klara Skrivankova, Between Decent Work and Forced Labor: Examining the Continuum of Exploitation (2010), https://www.gla.gov.uk/media/1585/jrf-between-decent-work-and-forced-labor.pdf.
3 Bridie France & Labor Exploitation Advisory Grp., Labor Compliance to Exploitation and the Abuses In-Between 1 (Aug. 2016), https://www.laborex-ploitation.org/publications/labor-exploitation-advisory-group-leag-position-paper-la-bor-compliance-exploitation.
4 Supra 1, p, 28.
5 ILO, 40 Million in Modern Slavery and 152 Million in Child Labour Around the World, (Sept. 19, 2017), https://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/newsroom/news/WCMS_574717/lang--en/index.htm
6 C&A Foundation. The Open Apparel Registry launches free, open source, global map of apparel facilities (28 March 2019), https://www.candafoundation.org/
Image 1: ILO, Cambodian garment workers (Jan 2007), https://www.flickr.com/photos/iloasiapacific/15899561989/in/photostream/
Image 2: Open Apparel Registry, 2019, https://openapparel.org/?contributors=26