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A New Way For Companies To Prevent Slaves From Working For You

Instead of just hoping that your favorite companies are doing everything they can to not use slave labor, a new initiative is working to make sure that there are only free workers everywhere on our supply chains.

A New Way For Companies To Prevent Slaves From Working For You
Chain via Shutterstock

How many slaves are working for you? Last year, a new website and app called Slavery Footprint popped up to let you figure it out, using an algorithm that takes into account how much jewelry you own, the number of electronics you have, what’s in your medicine cabinet, whether you’ve paid for sex, and more. I discovered, to my horror, that there were approximately 101 slaves involved in the supply chains for everything I own.

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According to the website–a partnership between anti-slavery nonprofit Call + Response and the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons–there wasn’t much I could do besides sending letters to the companies involved and demanding change (over 200,000 letters were sent to companies via the Slavery Footprint website).

Now, there’s a way for the companies themselves to get rid of forced labor, or slavery, in their supply chains. The Made in a Free World initiative, announced this week by the White House, helps brands figure out how to modify corporate codes of conduct to comply with forced labor regulations and identify parts of the supply chain that are at high risk for trafficking, all with help from independent auditors. It is purportedly the first initiative to offer a blueprint that will help companies cut out forced labor from their supply chains (though organizations like Verité already help companies weed out human rights abuses).

Participating companies will go through four steps: preparation (meeting with Made in a Free World, delivering existing procurement policy data, reviewing high-level data, etc.); corporate policy and supply chain assessment (working to bring corporate codes of conduct into compliance, mapping supply chains, identifying slavery hot spots using Made in a Free World’s data); implementation (deciding how to continue with supplier contracts, removing suppliers that don’t or won’t comply with Made in a Free World’s certification, updating policies and approved vendor lists, etc.); and verification (using a Made in a Free World-certified consultancy for an audit, providing all necessary updated policy and vendor data, and ultimately getting the Made in a Free World tag if all goes well).

No word on details yet, but with an assist from the State Department, we’re guessing it will be pretty thorough and effective.

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About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more

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