Slavery was officially abolished in the 19th century, but the abolition did not stop slavery all together, it changed its forms and continues to harm people in every country; also known as Modern Day Slavery. “Traditional slavery” consisted largely of forced labour but the term modern slavery is used to describe multiple types of exploitation or control over an individual. That could be through human trafficking, debt bondage/bonded labour, descent-based labour, child slavery and forced or early marriage. Many people know what Modern Day Slavery is, but how aware are we of the damage caused?
Anyone can be affected by slavery and those who are do not have a choice; usually as a result of coercion, threat or physical restraint. However, some people are more vulnerable to slavery than others. For example, those that live in poverty or who have limited opportunities for work are more vulnerable to accepting deceptive job offers that can turn exploitative. ‘Unseen’ is a UK charity that aids in the rehabilitation of survivors and have published some real-life stories showing how vulnerability plays a key part in slavery:
While grieving for her mother who had just died, Melody was tricked into coming to England from Nigeria to search for her grandmother. On arrival, she was met by a man who took her to a brothel and told her she would work there until she repaid her flight ticket. Every protest from Melody increased the debt she owed.
Like in Melody’s story, victims become stuck either because they are being forced to work to pay off a debt they owe or because their family or their own lives are being threatened. The damage caused is immense. It isn’t only the medical effects slavery has on a victim, the amount of psychological harm it causes is harrowing.
These two problems, this ancient and terrible problem of slavery and this newer concern that we have about climate change, are actually so tightly linked together that the solutions are fitting both of them.
Author of Blood and Earth: Modern Slavery, Ecocide and the Secret to Saving the World
It has been said that if we tackle slavery, we can tackle global warming too. For example, slave labour is often used to facilitate deforestation. Without the manpower created through slavery, the impact of deforestation would be significantly reduced.
To put into perspective the scale of damage caused by slavery on the environment, it is said that if slavery were a country it would have the population of Canada, but would be the third-largest emitter of CO2 after China and the United States.
Rana Plaza was a massive turning point in the fashion industry; brands such as Primark were on the list of companies who were sourcing clothes from the building when it collapsed killing 1,134 workers. Since the disaster many retailers like Primark have been taking measures to ensure that nothing like this happens again, due to not only the physical damage of the disaster but the damage caused to the brands image. Primark have been working tirelessly to regain consumer trust and loyalty after the disaster that left consumers horrified and disappointed by a retailer they trusted.
Consumers are the force for change – as we educate consumers on slave labour and exploitation as well as unethical and unsustainable practices within businesses, it is resulting in them increasingly choosing ethical and sustainable brands over others. It has also now become almost essential to many consumers to know where their product has come from and whether or not the person manufacturing it has received fair wages and treatment.
Slavery has a big moral impact on a consumer; they do not want to receive tainted products. A lot of the time consumers are prepared to pay more for something if it means the worker will receive a fair wage and be treated fairly and more often than not, consumers also want to know that no serious environmental damage has been caused.
In a previous blog we outlined the implications to a business if they practice unethical and unsustainable behaviours. The risk to having any involvement in slavery whether that is directly or whether it is deep down within your supply chain, the damage is extensive. With the increasing number of consumers becoming more aware of the impact that their buying habits have on the world around them, consumers feel strongly about where their products have come from. Especially if you pride yourself as a company to be completely free from slavery and then slavery is found within your supply chain, customers could lose trust and lack loyalty.
Researchers Julia Hartmann and Sabine Moeller produced a report called “Chain liability in multitier supply chains? Responsibility attributions for unsustainable supplier behaviour”. It talks about how unsustainable supplier behaviour can cause customers to boycott, participate in bad word-of-mouth resulting in a bad reputation and a damaged brand image which could seriously affect a business’ success.
How can we eradicate slavery?
Although consumers are beginning to change their buying habits which is forcing change in businesses; businesses themselves need to be the force in order to really stamp out slave labour and exploitation. A lot of the time businesses might not even know that slavery is happening within their organisation which is why supply chain transparency is a must-have.
At Segura we can track each component of your product to ensure that everything has come from sustainable and ethical resources which is excellent for risk management but also is reassuring to you and your consumers that your products are 100% compliant. You may think well, why do I need supply chain transparency when factories are being audited? My answer to that would be, well how can you be sure that the audited factories are the ones making your product?
Originally Published 26/06/2018