Saturday, April 16, 2011

Understanding Modern Slavery in the Supply Chain & Why Blanket Boycotts May Not be Best

Understanding where our products come from is an important part of understanding one of the underlying factors in modern slavery today. From cotton to cocoa, rugs to cell phones, almost every supply chain has some amount of slavery in it.

This is one of the hardest parts of slavery to weed out. To combat slavery in the supply chain, abolitionist organizations must work with companies and suppliers to help them find cases of slavery and remove it from their supply chain. This is how long term solutions can be accomplished as has been seen with the Cocoa Initiative, discussed by Kevin Bales, President of Free the Slaves.

It's often difficult for businesses to wipe out slavery from their supply chains. Take for instance cocoa farms along the ivory coast. Chocolate companies typically buy their cocoa from a broker, who buys it from a broker, who buys it from a group of farmers, where a smaller percentage of these farmers may use slaves.

Some might say, "Let's boycott their chocolate." The problem with this blanket approach is that it may do more harm than good. This hurts the cocoa business, which hurts the brokers, which hurts the group of farmers, of which a large percentage are legitimate farmers on the Ivory Coast struggling to survive. If their farms fail because their sales have dropped, they can easily be enslaved on slave farms or may become a slave farm themselves to produce better margins and just survive.

Because the overhead is so cheap for slave labor, this can grow the slave cycle instead of breaking it.

That's why it's critical to weed out the small percentage of slavery in the product chain at the root. When businesses and anti-slavery groups work together, I mean really team up, this can take place. The organizations can help identify and root out slavery in the supply chain and the companies can expend the resources to make sure local authorities are notified and that it gets removed from their purchases by brokers.

If you know of a company with slavery in their product chain, contact the company to make them aware of the problem along with your state legislators and local news. Nothing will get a company motivated to investigate and cleanup their product chain like a little bad PR. This is actually how the chocolate companies started making changes and decided to partner up with government and abolitionist groups. Boycotts can and do have this effect as well. You just have to remember their may be greater consequences to a blanket boycott than you might realize.

With that said, The International Labour Rights Forum and Not For Sale has created a Free 2 Work APP for the Android and iPhone, which rates companies on their supply chain and makes it easy to learn more about companies and share information with friends. Here's a quick video about it. DOWNLOAD THE APP HERE.

Source: Not For Sale

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